Please join the Harriman Institute for the opening of the exhibit “Sergei Dovlatov: Alone in the Ring.” Curated by Elena Dovlatov and Natasha Sharymova.
The Harriman Institute, in cooperation with the Dovlatov Estate and The New York Plus Plus-newsletter, will present a photo exhibit chronicling the life of the Russian writer Sergei Dovlatov, from his childhood years in Russia to the émigré life in the United States.
The exhibit is composed of photos from the Dovlatov family archive, from Ksana Mechik’s archive, some were taken by the writer’s friends and professional photographers, including Nina Alovert, Mark Serman, Mikhail Lemkhin, Leonid Lubianitsky.
Sergei Dovlatov was born on September 3, 1941 in Ufa, Republic of Bashkiria, USSR, where his family had been evacuated from Leningrad during World War II. Dovlatov studied linguistics at the Leningrad State University but dropped out after two and a half years. He was drafted into the army and served as a prison guard in high-security camps, where he began “taking notes”, an experience that years later formed the novel The Zone.
After the army Dovlatov worked as a journalist in various newspapers and magazines in Leningrad and later as a correspondent for Soviet Estonia Daily, in Tallinn, which is depicted in his novel The Compromise. Shortly before emigration, Sergei Dovlatov worked as tour guide in the Pushkin Preserve, near Pskov. This experience was later reflected in Pushkin Hills, which will soon be released in English for the first time.
Dovlatov wrote prose fiction, but all his attempts to get published in his homeland were in vain. He circulated his writings through samizdat and had them smuggled on film to Europe for publication in foreign press, which caused his expulsion from the Union of Journalists in 1976 and “assisted” emigration in 1979.
Sergei Dovlatov settled in New York City, where he and a group of former Soviet journalists founded the “largest Russian weekly in the world” called the New American. Dovlatov immigrated to the U.S. to become a professional man of letters and was proud that he had reached his goal.
During the twelve years he lived in the US, Dovlatov’s popularity boomed. He published twelve books in Russian and five in English – The Compromise, The Zone: A Prison Guard’s Story, Ours: A Family Album, A Foreign Woman and The Suitcase, all of which have since been translated into most European languages, as well as Chinese and Japanese.
Dovlatov was a recipient of the US Pen Club award and nine of his stories were published in The New Yorker, making him only the second Russian writer, after Vladimir Nabokov, to appear in the prestigious magazine.
Sergei Dovlatov died on August 24, 1990 and is buried in New York City. Posthumously he became one of the best-loved and best-selling authors in his native Russia. Numerous documentary films have been made about his life, several feature films were shot based on his works, plaques are honoring places where he lived, and interest in his life and work is only increasing.
Sergei Dovlatov created a literary world all his own and a fitting epigraph could be in the words of the famous US poet Wallace Stevens “The world is absurd and people are dull.”
Gratitude to all who have helped gather materials for this exhibition: Andrey Ariev, Katherine Dovlatov, Ksenia Blank-Mechik, Yakov Gordin, Mikhail Bessendorf, Natalia Dyakovskay, Lubov Fedorova, Olga Nilova, Tania Retivov, Mikhail Torich, Svetlana and Kostya Vais, Interart gallery.
Photo: S.Dovlatov.M.Erimin, V.Uflyand. Photo by N. Sharymova

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