Warlam Schalamow: Ich kann keine Briefe schreiben
Korrespondenz 1952–1978
[I Cannot Write Letters. Correspondence 1952–1978]

Edition of works vol. 8
Matthes & Seitz, Berlin 2022, 751 pages
ISBN 978-3-7518-0075-4

Translated from Russian by Gabriele Leupold, edited by Franziska Thun-Hohenstein.

For Varlam Shalamov, one of the great writers of the 20th century, letters were an indispensable medium to reflect on experiences, readings, films, or exhibitions, on his poems and prose, on the nature of poetry and literature in general. Letters were able to bridge spatial distances—from 1952 to 1953 between Shalamov himself in Siberian Yakutia and Boris Pasternak in Moscow or in the summers of the 1960s between him in Moscow and Nadezhda Mandelstam in the countryside. As the years went by, letters increasingly became the deafened writer’s alternative to spoken conversation. When his Kolyma Stories circulated within the informal circles of the Samizdat but there was no possibility for Shalamov to engage in conversation with his readers, he found letters to be the ideal medium by which to explain and express himself. Thus, his correspondences give many-voiced, often-times surprising insight into his life, his writing, and decades of literary life in post-war Moscow.


Bücher im Gespräch

Episode 12: Warlam Schalamow – Biographie und Poetik

For our twelfth episode, Franziska Thun-Hohenstein talks to Stefan Willer about her biography of Varlam Shalamov Das Leben schreiben [Writing Life] and the edition of letters Ich kann keine Briefe schreiben [I Cannot Write Letters] (both Berlin: Matthes & Seitz 2022).


Book presentation
09 Nov 2022 · 7.00 pm

Das Leben schreiben. Warlam Schalamow: Biographie und Poetik

Haus für Poesie, Knaackstr. 97, 10435 Berlin

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Media Response

04 Mar 2023
Kontakt mit der Vergangenheit

Review by Fokke Joel, in: taz, 4 Mar 2023

02 Mar 2023
Das Lager erzählen

Review by Ulrike Baureithel, in: WOZ Die Wochenzeitung 9 (2 Mar 2023)