History of Literature

Russian literature


Venedikt Yerofeyev

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Venedikt Vasilyevich Yerofeyev (another spellings: Erofeev, Erofeyev; Russian: Венедикт Васильевич Ерофеев; 24 October 1938 — 11 May 1990), was a Russian writer.

Yerofeyev was born in the small settlement Niva-2, suburb of Kandalaksha, Murmansk Oblast. His father was imprisoned during Stalin's purges but survived after 16 years in the gulags. Most of his childhood Yerofeyev spent in Kirovsk, Murmansk Oblast. He managed to enter the philology department of the Moscow State University but was expelled from the University after a year and a half because he did not attend compulsory military training. Later he studied in several more institutes in different towns including Kolomna and Vladimir but he has never managed to graduate from any, usually being expelled due to his "amoral behaviour" (freethinking). Between 1958 and 1975 Yerofeyev lived without propiska in towns in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania, also spending some time in Uzbekistan and Tadjikistan, doing different low-qualified and underpaid jobs; for a time he lived and worked in the Muromtsev Dacha in Moscow. He started writing at the age of 17; in the 1960s he unsuccessfully submitted several articles on Ibsen and Hamsun to literary magazines.

Literary heritage
Yerofeyev is best known for his 1969 poem in prose Moscow-Petushki (several English translations exist, including Moscow to the End of the Line and Moscow Stations). It is an account of a journey from Moscow to Petushki (Vladimir Oblast) by train, a journey soaked in alcohol. During the trip, the hero recounts some of the fantastic escapades he participated in, including declaring war on Norway, and charting the drinking habits of his colleagues when leader of a cable laying crew. Referred to by David Remnick as "the comic high-water mark of the Brezhnev era", the poem was published for the first time in 1973 in Jerusalem immediately making Yerofeyev famous throughout the world. It was not published in the Soviet Union until 1989.

Of note is his smaller 1988 work, My Little Leniniana (Моя маленькая лениниана, Moya malenkaya Leniniana), which is a collection of Lenin's quotations works and letters, which shows the unpleasant parts of the character of the "leader of the proletariat".

Yerofeyev also claimed to have written in 1972 a novel Shostakovich about the famous Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich, but the manuscript was stolen in a train. The novel has never been found.

Yerofeyev died of throat cancer. Before his death he finished a play called Walpurgisnacht or Steps of the Commodore ("Вальпургиева ночь или Шаги командора") and was working on another play about Fanny Kaplan.


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