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The writer poses with Joseph Brodsky and Kurt Vonnegut, celebrates his birthday and laughs in a sombrero.

A photo exhibition “Look at me with love”, timed to coincide with the 80th birthday of Sergei Dovlatov, has opened at the Alexander Solzhenitsyn House of Russian Abroad. The exposition includes photographs from the writer’s family archive and personal collections of his friends, illustrating Dovlatov’s path from the first steps in Soviet journalism to publications in well-known US magazines – he spent the last 12 years of his life, from 1978 to 1990, in emigration.

One of the curators of the exhibition was the journalist Natalya (Natasha) Sharymova, a contemporary and friend of Dovlatov, who knew him both in the Soviet and American periods of his life. At the request of, she chose seven photographs from the ones displayed at the House of the Russian Diaspora and told about the stories connected with them.

About the idea of ​​the exhibition

I met Sergei Dovlatov back in Leningrad. He was a noticeable, tall, showy man, charming and pensive. It was felt that some kind of intense inner life lurked in him. I was associated with the Aurora magazine (my husband Alexander Matveyevich worked there as the executive secretary) and knew that the magazine would very much like to publish Dovlatov’s stories, but he was not allowed. Later, for a short time, I entered the editorial office of the samizdat magazine “37”, negotiated with Sergei about the possible publication of his works in this publication. So even in the times of St. Petersburg, I read stories that were later included in the collection “Zone. Notes of the Overseer “. Dovlatov’s writing talent was obvious.

In New York, I was friends with Dovlatov, was a member of the editorial board of the weekly newspaper “New American”, for which I wrote texts and took photographs. Now, many years later, it seemed curious to collect the biography of the writer in photographs, somehow shading his personality and work. Elena, Sergei’s wife, and daughter Ekaterina provided the opportunity to take pictures from their archives. Elena became one of the curators of the exhibition – together with the photographer Pavel Platonov. Andrei Ariev, the Losev, Belomlinsky families, Mikhail Torich also provided their archives. The exposition includes photographs taken by Nina Alovert, Valery Karpov, Joseph Malkiel, Ilya Koltun, Leonid Lubyanitsky, Pavel Platonov, Lev Polyakov, Anatoly Pronin, Mark Serman, Natasha Sharymova, Mikhail Lemkhin and others.

The curators of the exhibition are grateful to the House of Russian Abroad named after Alexander Solzhenitsyn for the opportunity to organize this exhibition. Without Tatyana Korolkova, head of the library, and Elena Khorina, graphic designer of the House of Russian Diaspora, this event would not have happened.

Evening of the youth section. Leningrad, 1968. Photo by Natasha Sharymova

This photo was taken in the White Hall of the House of Writers named after V.V. Mayakovsky (in Leningrad. – approx. The famous evening of the youth section was held there, led by the writer and translator Boris Vakhtin, the son of the writer Vera Panova (whose literary secretary was Sergei Dovlatov – comment

This evening, which was a resounding success, many writers performed. At the same time, a denunciation was written to the board of the Union of Writers of the USSR. The section was closed. All these events are described in detail, including documents, in the memoirs of the Russian and American writer Igor Efimov.

I photographed Dovlatov, in the background – publicist and prose writer Yakov Gordin. An interesting story is connected with this evening, which throws light on the mechanism of human memory. Last year, one of the newspapers devoted an entire spread with photographs and memoirs to this event. It turned out that no one remembers that writer Maya Danini, poetess Tatyana Galushko, poet and publicist Poel Karp, Boris Vakhtin spoke at the evening. In the material, only Sergei Dovlatov, Yakov Gordin, Vladimir Maramzin, Vladimir Uflyand and Joseph Brodsky were listed. I still have photographic film on which almost everything is captured – but there was not enough film for Maramzin, Brodsky and Uflyand, which I am terribly sorry about.

Seeing off the Losev family. Leningrad, 1976. Photo by Ilya Koltun

Poet Lev Losev (then – Lifshits) worked in the children’s magazine “Koster”, among other things, he was in charge of the sports department and, using his official opportunities, sent his friends on business trips, helping to earn money. Brodsky was sent to Kaliningrad, Dovlatov – to the pioneer camp “Artek”, photographer Lev Polyakov – somewhere else. He determined me to answer the letters of the participants of the youth sports day. At the suggestion of Losev, the magazine published watercolors by the artist Marianna Basmanova, the muse of Joseph Brodsky.

In St. Petersburg and, of course, in Moscow, a certain circle of people was formed who adhered to the same values: they watched “trophy” films (foreign feature films that were not shown at that time in the USSR – approx., loved jazz , mined records “on the bones” (the underground culture of recording songs on X-rays. – comment), listened to Willis Conover’s radio programs and folk, read Ernest Hemingway. Then we switched to studying the Polish language, Polish magazines and films. We looked closely at Tart, semiotics and Yuri Lotman, knew impressionism and abstractionism, read the magazines “America” ​​and “England” and obtained samizdat wherever possible. And they also read the poems of the Silver Age. They were rather careless, did not accept the dominant ideology – they pretended, as far as possible, that it did not exist. Of course, this happened after the death of Joseph Stalin – thanks to the thaw. I think the circle of these people in Leningrad was about 100 people. Half of them were literary men, a quarter were artists, and the rest were beautiful ladies, lovers of fine literature. This photo captures many significant characters of those years.

Birthday of Sergei Dovlatov. New York, September 3, 1980. Photo by Nina Alovert

The author of this wonderful, stunning photograph, Nina Alovert is a ballet critic, unique photographer and author of several photographic albums. Pay attention to this photo: nowhere else will you see such a cheerful, optimistic Dovlatov. The T-shirt was presented to him by Joseph Brodsky, and he put on the sombrero, fooling around. Ahead is the creation of the émigré magazine “New American”, where Dovlatov will become the chief editor. Two of his collections have already been published, and 10 more will appear in the future.

Vladimir Voinovich and Sergey Dovlatov. New York, 1980. Photo by Nina Alovert

This photograph was taken by Nina Alovert at the Dovlatovs’ apartment in Queens. The Voinovich family arrived in America that day, and the New American editorial staff went to meet the writer at the John F. Kennedy International Airport, and then we all went to the Dovlatovs.

Vladimir Voinovich, naturally, was interested in literary life and asked journalists what and how. He was somewhat dumbfounded: the English-speaking taxi driver, in which he was traveling to New York with his wife, Alexander Batchan and me, turned around and said: “I know Chonkin” (Vladimir Voinovich’s novel “Life and Extraordinary The Adventures of a Soldier Ivan Chonkin ”was published in Paris in 1975. – note

New American editorial staff. Central Park New York, 1981. Photo by Anatoly Pronin

This is the only photograph of the journalists and staff of the weekly. It was taken by a talented photographer, unfortunately now deceased, Anatoly Pronin. I hope that someone will take an interest in his photographic archive and introduce the public to his work. I also hope that there are researchers who can describe the story of the creation of the New American, full of hope, drama and pain.

I know that some of the surviving employees of this newspaper are going to write biographies of everyone who is captured in this photograph. These are Alik Batchan, Elena Dovlatova, Natasha Sharymova, Grigory Polyak, Lev Losev, Mikhail Blank, Peter Weil, Irina Genis, Vitaly Dlugy, Lyubov Fedorova, Alexander Genis, Nina Alovert, Sergey Dovlatov, Boris Metter, Igor Genis, Lev Stern, Ekaterina Dovlatov.

Sergey Dovlatov, Elena Dovlatova, Vasily Aksenov. New York, 1980. Photo by Natasha Sharymova

Vasily Aksenov was stripped of his Soviet citizenship, and the editorial staff of New American went to the airport to meet the writer once again. Vasily Pavlovich, a charming person, was interested in the affairs of our newspaper and constantly communicated with Sergei Dovlatov, its editor-in-chief.

Sergey Dovlatov and Kurt Vonnegut. New York, 1980. Photo by Nina Alovert

Another legend, it is an immutable truth. The author of “Cat’s Cradle”, “Slaughterhouse Number Five” and other works, Kurt Vonnegut wrote a letter to Dovlatov stating that he, an American writer, could never get into The New Yorker magazine (Dovlatov became the second Russian writer after Vladimir Nabokov who could publish your story in this edition – note Vonnegut congratulates the young Russian author on this well-deserved success and admires his talent. I quote from memory – I have not seen this letter, but it exists and was published. Judging by the expressions on their faces in the picture, it seems that Sergei Dovlatov and Kurt Vonnegut are pleased with each other and this meeting.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article is a translation. Apologies should the grammar and or sentence structure not be perfect.

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