Vasily Aksyonov

Vasily Aksyonov

Vasily Pavlovich Aksyonov ( _ru. Василий Павлович Аксёнов) (b. 1932) is a Russian novelist who began his career in the Soviet era. He is known in the West as the author of "The Burn" ("Ожог", "Ozhog", from 1975) and the critically acclaimedFact|date=May 2008 "Generations of Winter" ("Московская сага", "Moskovskaya Saga", from 1992), a family saga depicting three generations of the Gradov family between 1925 and 1953.

Early life

Vasily Aksyonov was born to Pavel Aksyonov and Yevgenia Ginzburg (Eugenia) in Kazan, USSR on August 20 1932. His mother was a successful journalist and educator and his father Pavel Aksyonov had a high position in the administration of Kazan. Both of them were faithful communists. In 1937 Yevgenia Ginzburg was arrested and tried for her alleged connection to Trotskyists. She was sentenced to 10 years of solitary confinement in prison (later changed to 10 years of forced labour in labour camps). Vasily's father Pavel was arrested soon afterwards for a similar crime and was sentenced to 15 years of corrective labour.

Vasily remained in Kazan with his nanny and grandmother until the NKVD arrested him as a son of "enemies of the people," and sent him to an orphanage without providing his family with any information. In 1938 Pavel, Aksyonov's brother, managed to find Vasily in an orphanage in Kostroma, and took him to live with his father's side of the family till 1948. Vasily's half-brother Alexei (from Ginzburg's first marriage to Dmitriy Fedorov) died from starvation in besieged Leningrad in 1941.Fact|date=May 2008

In 1948, after her sentence was completed, Yevgenia Ginzburg managed to obtain a permission for Vasily to join her in Magadan, Kolyma. She described their first meeting in her autobiographical book "Journey into the Whirlwind". Vasily completed his school education in Magadan and a decision was made to send him to the Medical University in Kazan.


In 1956 Aksyonov graduated from the Leningrad Medical Institute and worked as a doctor for the next three years. He became a professional writer in 1960. In the 1960s Aksyonov is a frequent author of the popular "Yunost" ("Youth") magazine, he became a member of the magazine staff for the next couple of years.

In the 1970s, after the end of the Khrushchev Thaw and the relaxation of censorship that accompanied it, Aksyonov's work was kept from publication. Soviet censors prevented two novels, "The Burn" and "The Island of Crimea", from official publication. Aksyonov himself was criticized for exhibiting "unsoviet" qualities.Fact|date=May 2008 At the same time, in 1978, Aksyonov's work was leaked and published abroad.Fact|date=May 2008

On July 22 1980 Aksyonov and his wife Maya traveled to the USA on an invitation and were subsequently stripped of their Soviet citizenship.Fact|date=May 2008 Until 2004, Aksyonov lived in the USA and taught a Russian Literature course at George Mason University. His new novel 'Moskva-kva-kva' (2006) was published in the Moscow-based magazine 'Oktyabr'. Aksyonov currently lives in a Moscow apartment with his wife, Maya Zmeul, and has a second home in Biarritz, France.

Political Views

Vasily Aksyonov is a convinced anti-totalitarian. On the presentation of his newest novel, he stated: "If in this country one starts erecting Stalin statues again, I have to reject my native land. Nothing else remains."Fact|date=May 2008


His other novels are
* "Colleagues" ("Коллеги" - "Kollegi", 1960)
* "Star Ticket" ("Звёздный билет" - "Zvyozdny bilet", 1961)
* "Oranges from Morocco" ("Апельсины из Марокко" - "Apel'siny iz Marokko", 1963)
* "It's Time, My Friend, It's Time" ("Пора, мой друг, пора" - "Pora, moy drug, pora", 1964)
* "It's a Pity You Weren't with Us" ("Жаль, что вас не было с нами" - "Zhal', chto vas ne bylo s nami", 1965)
* "Overstocked Packaging Barrels" ("Затоваренная бочкотара" - "Zatovarennaya bochkotara", 1968)
* "In Search of a Genre" ("В поисках жанра" - "V poiskakh zhanra", 1972)
* "The Island of Crimea" ("Остров Крым" - "Ostrov Krym", 1979)
* "In Search of Melancholy Baby" ("В поисках грустного бэби" - "V poiskakh grustnogo bebi", 1987)
* "Yolk of the Egg" (written in English, 1989)
* "The New Sweet Style" ("Новый сладостный стиль" - "Novy sladostny stil"', 1998)
* "Voltairian Men and Women" ("Вольтерьянцы и вольтерьянки" - "Volteryantsy i volteryanki", 2004 - won the Russian Booker Prize).

External links

* [ 1983, 1984 interviews with Vasily Aksyonov] by Don Swaim at Wired for Books
* [ "Booknotes" interview with Aksyonov on "Say Cheese", November 5, 1989.]

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