Literature or Life

The writer Varlam Shalamov

Fotos aus Schalamows Akte, 1937, © Literaturhaus Berlin

The Russian writer Varlam Shalamov (1907 – 1982) devoted his entire literary career to portraying the living conditions of the Soviet Gulag, where he had also served time for many years. In autobiographical writings, poems and stories, Shalamov describes the torment of the Gulag, the strategies used to destroy the human spirit through labour, the feeling of hopelessness among the prisoners and the inhumane conditions of a system of exploitation, hunger, fear, cruelty and extermination. Here in Germany, readers are far less familiar with Shamalov’s works compared with other more famous books, e.g. Alexandr Solzhenitsyn’s novel The Gulag Archipelago. All the more reason to compliment the publishers at Matthes & Seitz for their decision to commission a new translation of Shalamov’s works.
The exhibition at the Literaturhaus Berlin took visitors along the stations of Shalamov’s life on the basis of literary documents and presented the world of Soviet labour camps from a prisoner’s perspective. The Moscow Memorial and numerous Russian archives and museums have provided original documents from Shalamov’s estate, along with photos and objects from the Gulag. The exhibition in Berlin, curated by Christina Links and Wilfried F. Schoeller, has been supplemented by an extensive accompanying programme and was later shown in Heidelberg, Prague, Kosice and Luxemburg. The organizers also developed a concept for a touring exhibition through Eastern Europe (e.g. Warsaw, Budapest, Ruse, Riga, Prague, etc.).

Artistic directors: Christina Links, Wilfried F. Schoeller
Artists: Viktor Alexandrovich Shmyrov (RU), Valeri Vassilievich Yessipov (RU), Irina Lasarevna Sherbakova (RU), Sergei Michailovich Soloviov (RU), Franziska Thun-Hohenstein, Gabriele Leupold, Wladislaw Hedeler.

Additional Venues of the touring exhibition:

22.10. - 7.11.2014 Università Cattolica di Brescia

13. - 27.11.2014 Università degli Studi, Milano

14. - 28.1.2015 Università degli Studi, Verona

12.6. - 5.9. 2015 Universitätsbibliothek Basel

15.1. - 19.3.2016 Universitätsbibliothek Tübingen

14.4. - 12.6.2016 Universitätsbibliothek Bamberg


Literaturhaus Berlin

Fasanenstraße 23

10719 Berlin (external link, opens in a new window)