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The Trail of Dovlatov
July 23, 2014 09:15


First Russian Museum of Sergei Dovlatov appeared in Pskov oblast in a small house in Berezino village. The Museum of Sergei Dovlatov is located in the house in Berezino village where, according to the reminiscences of the literary critic Andrei Aryev, Dovlatov wrote on the wall on his birthday in 1976: “35 years in crap and shame”.

This is the house of the local forester Uncle Misha - Mikhail Ivanovich who drank, as it follows from “The Reserve” novel, “until astonishment, paralysis and delirium”. The writer lived here for two years, working as a guide in the Pushkin Museum-Reserve, and the memories of those years are included into “The Reserve” (“Zapovednik”) - one of the major works of Dovlatov.

Making this place a museum was an idea made up three years ago by the Petersburg restorer Yuri Volkotrub, the poet Valery Kostin and Dovlatov’s biographer Valery Popov. They assure that the house was built in 1912, and until recently it served as a summer dacha of the resident of Moscow who didn’t suspect anything.

The building was in a breakdown state: the ceiling sagged and was propped by a pinewood log, the oven collapsed, the roof leaked. Only the bed, the mirror and the wardrobe remained of the things that Dovlatov used to touch. The creators of the museum consider it a literary centre of Soviet culture of 1960-1980's with the emphasis on the works of Russian writers who became famous abroad.

Literature touches Dovlatov’s life so closely that is not always clear where one ends and the other begins. There is always a character in his prose who moved along the same streets as the author did, living in the author’s apartments and meeting his friends. 

New York, Sergei Dovlatov Way.

There is no museum in New York yet, but one of the streets in the borough of Queens where the writer lived for twelve years after his departure from Leningrad in 1978, will be named after him. Dovlatov finished his major works on the 63rd Drive: “Compromise” (“Kompromis”), created “The Reserve”, “Zone” (“Zona”) and “Suitcase”  (“Chemodan”).

Here he published the Russian newspaper “New American” jointly with literary critics Pyotr Weill and Aleksandr Genis. Here, in his third New York apartment, his widow Elena still lives and persistently preserves the details of everyday life that surrounded the writer: the bookcase (“three meters of literature”, according to the words of the poet Evgeny Rein who visited them), the thoroughly tidied desk, Matryoshka dolls with genitals painted by Dovlatov. It is necessary to collect 20,000 signatures and to interview the neighbors in order to name the street after Dovlatov. 

St. Petersburg, 23 Rubinstein Street.

Dovlatov spent the most part of his life - from 1944 to 1975 – in the 23rd house of Rubinstein Street in St. Petersburg, the former apartment house. There is still a communal apartment with six rooms in the apartment number 34, with “a long gloomy corridor” which “metaphysically ended with a water-closet” (if you believe the novel “Ours” (“Nashi”).

Dovlatov’s room, as they say, turned into a closet. They also dream of a museum here, but so far only hostel “Dovlatov House” appeared in the building, and a plaque in the form of a book with caricature self-portrait was installed in 2007. 

Tallinn, 41 Vabriku.

Dovlatov arrived in Tallinn (according to the story “The Odd One Out” (“Lishnii”), having a hangover and no luggage) at the end of September 1972, hoping to publish a book. However, Dovlatov failed to publish it: the compilation comprising fourteen stories drew the attention of the Estonian KGB in the last minute. 

He settled at the apartment of Tamara Zibunova whom he met at a St. Petersburg party. “Our friends stayed here, arriving in Tallinn. Including Brodsky, who liked Tamara’s apartment for its originality, comfort and a quiet green district five minutes away from the old town”- Lyudmila Stern recalled. Later, remembering Dovlatov, Zibunova wrote that he refused to leave her apartment – so she had to call the police or to agree with everything he wanted. A bronze bas-relief consisting of two parts was installed on this wooden house on the former Rabchinskogo Street, the bas-relief was made by the drawing of the member of “Mit’ki” crew Alexander Florensky: one part contains the text, and the other depicts Dovlatov walking with his fox- terrier called Glasha. 

Author: Anna Dorozhkina

Tags: Dovlatov Pskov    

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