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Shalamov.ru

I’ve been meaning for a while to write something about this site, to which I’m a pretty frequent visitor.

Shalamov.ru was launched in December 2008 and has grown amazingly quickly over the last year and a bit. It’s become one of the best resources on an individual writer that I’ve come across. It contains electronic texts of his works, including one particularly handy tool: a list of names of people who appear in the stories, with links — it’s not yet complete, but it’s a big help. It’s also rapidly developing a strong contextual and critical framework which is both useful for scholars and makes a significant contribution to the site’s aim of bringing Varlam Shalamov’s extraordinary works to a wider public.

In addition to the news and events pages, there  is a biographical section that contains a descriptive timeline and an  interesting archive of documents from various periods in Shalamov’s life, such as official documents, interrogation protocols and surveillance reports. The section ‘About Shalamov’ (О Шаламове) contains others’ memoirs about the author and a growing library of literary-critical works. There is also a quite extensive photo archive, including not only pictures of Shalamov, but also his associates, including some of the people he wrote about in Kolyma Tales, and some pictures of, for example, the hospital on the Left Bank about which he wrote so much.

The audio archive contains recordings of the author reading various works. I found listening to one of my favourite stories, Resurrection of the Larch, very moving. The site’s owners are planning to include interviews with people who knew Shalamov and scholars who work on him in this section. There’s also a film archive which contains a number of downloadable documentaries and interviews.

The ‘Criticism’ (Критика) section contains a variety of materials, some of them quite old, such as essays by Andrei Siniavskii and Vera Inber. I have to say it’s not entirely clear to me what the difference is between this section and the one titled ‘Research’ (Исследования) in the ‘About Shalamov’ section, but between the two, there’s quite a lot of useful stuff there, and the inclusion of a thematic links page (as well as an author links page) makes it fairly easily searchable. There’s a bibliography both of publications of Shalamov’s works, and of works about Shalamov, as well as a section on historical and literary context, and a page about the Shalamov museum in Vologda.

The English language version of the site is very new (it’s only been up since December 2009), and clearly still under development. However, the museum page, the biography and some literary criticism in English have already been added (including, I’m pleased to see, my essay on Shalamov’s symbolism). There is a smaller bibliography of English-language materials, and the photo archive is available, albeit with shorter explanatory texts.

Hopefully the English side of the website will continue to grow and will gain Shalamov some new readers. He deserves to be far better known and far more widely read than he currently is. Shalamov’s not an easy writer, but he has been unjustly neglected, and I think people are really only just waking up to how important he is. He needs promoting and the site’s owners are doing a great job. I always look forward to visiting shalamov.ru to see what new additions there are.

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