Cover Osteuropa 6/2007

In Osteuropa 6/2007
Teil des Lesepaket Literaturwissenschaft

Poetics of Mercilessness
Varlam Shalamov: His Life and Work

Franziska Thun-Hohenstein

Deutsche Fassung


Varlam Shalamov, whose 100th birthday will be observed this year, was forced to spend almost 20 years in forced labour camps and in Siberian exile. Convinced that the camp destroyed people, Shalamov immersed himself in his experiences in the camps of Kolyma for the rest of his life, employing the possibilities and limitations of literature. The philosophical level of his reflections on the existence of people under extreme conditions of hunger, cold, violence, and inhuman physical labour ended not in a settling of scores with the Soviet system. Shalamov sought to reveal the fragility of what we are used to calling civilisation or culture. In his Kolyma Tales, he drew the most radical aesthetic consequences and developed a poetics of the most extreme laconism and mercilessness, in order “to penetrate the camp’s presence.”

(Osteuropa 6/2007, pp. 35–51)