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Stamp Album

Authors: Andrei Sergeev

Published by Glas New Russian Writing

ISBN: 9785717200592

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Stamp Album — despite winning the Russian Booker Prize — is not a novel, but a novel memoir. A collector of stamps from childhood, the poet and writer Andrei Sergeev (1933-98) later collected impressions as well, impressions of people, things, relationships and words, here displayed as lovingly yet frankly as coins — another lifelong passion — in glass cases.

During his lifetime, Sergeev was better known as a distinguished translator of English poetry, including that of T.S. Eliot, Robert Frost and W.H. Auden. In the 1950s he belonged to the original underground literary group that invented samizdat (hand-production and dissemination of banned books). In the 1960s he became a friend of Joseph Brodsky, who dedicated a major poem to Sergeev. But it wasn't until the 1990's that Sergeev's own poems and autobiographical prose — lapidary in style and full of evocative detail — began to appear in Russian literary journals.

In Stamp Album, Sergeev draws on his extraordinary store of personal recollections as well as on old letters, photographs, family documents, Soviet slogans, street conversations, popular songs, children's rhymes and irreverences to recreate the very texture and perversity of Soviet life in the 1930s, '40s and '50s. Stamp Album is, if you will, Sergeev's Speak, Memory. But whereas Nabokov's memory speaks in complete sentences and long descriptive paragraphs, Sergeev's can be as elliptical and cryptic as the actual scenes it reproduces. Stamp Album is straight memory — with nary a word of retroactive explanation added for the reader's benefit. Thus the reader comes at Sergeev's life as he did himself at the time - particularly in childhood and adolescence
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