Between Exile and Asylum

An Eastern Epistolary
$69.00 / €56.00 / £50.00
Publication date: 
240 pages

A collection of letters, written by a most extraordinary and yet typical representative of the East European intelligentsia, sent from Moscow, Mostar, and more recently Paris and Rome, where the author has lived since leaving war-torn Bosnia.

Matvejević first went to the USSR in 1972, as a guest of the Writers’ Union, and described to his father the land that Matvejević senior had not seen since leaving Odessa in 1921 (and that he would never see again in his lifetime). He chronicles the dissolution of the USSR, its final twenty years of existence, from the unique vantage point of a semi-insider—a half-Russian, non-aligned (Yugoslav) dissident intellectual rooted in the public debates and artistic life of both Western, Eastern and Central Europe. This story, moreover, parallels the simultaneous dissolution of Yugoslavia, to which the narrator refers increasingly as the book nears its end. Matvejević addresses his letters, on one hand, to dissident figures such as Varlam Shalamov, Bulat Okudzhava and Joseph Brodsky, but, on the other, to Khrushchev, Brezhnev, Gorbachev, Yeltsin and the Supreme Soviet of the USSR. Most importantly he writes to his father, lying ill and mute (but able to read) on a Zagreb hospital bed in 1974. And he writes to the reader, punctuating his opinions with telling details and incisive observations.

A Note on Source Texts
A Note on the Transliteration of Russian

Book One: Heroides
To My Forebears
Seven Thousand Days in Siberia
Eurasian Letters (continued)
The Gulag Archipelago

Book Two: Steles
Soviet Itineraries (continued)
On Letters, Open and Closed
To Varlam Shalamov
Russian Letters (continued)
Hostage to the Truth
Cause for Dismissal
Yellow Star, White Star

Book Three: Epitaphs
Nikolai Bukharin
Kropotkin, the Dark Prince
Maksim Gorky
Lev Trotsky
Goli Otok: Another Gulag

Book Four: Apologias
Mikhail Bulgakov
Nadezhda Mandelshtam
Ariadna Efron
Portraits of Stalin
On the Perestroika of Writers
For Mikhail Sergeevich Gorbachev
Archives and Memory
For a New Dissidence
An Interrogation
Our Disappointments: To Brodsky
Final Letters
Heirs without Heritage
Emigration and Dissidence
The Collapse of the Intelligentsia
Okudzhava’s Response
A Perverted Slavicism
The Gulag So Long Ago
To Franjo Tuđman

Afterword: An Open Letter to the Reader

"Matvejevic has written other important books (Mediterranean: A Cultural Landscape; Yugoslavism Today; I Signori della guerra), but this is a special case. His personal stake is palpable from the first page, when he makes it clear that his ideal reader, at least in the opening, is his father who lies ill in a Zagreb hospital... There is a lot of interesting material here on Soviet and Yugoslav cultural politics, but also much that is personal and compelling in the author's own story and in the subtly insinuating manner he chose to convey it. Fascinating stuff."