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Polina Barskova (University of California, Berkeley)

Polina Barskova

Polina Barskova

Dorothea Schlegel Artist in Residence

Research Area 1: “Competing Communities”

June 2023

Memories at War

At the EXC 2020 Polina Barskova will continue to work on the cycle of poems, essays and talks about the siege of Leningrad as a cultured community where physical and emotional survival becomes intertwined with various scenarios of creative work. The creative realm of the besieged Leningrad was permeated by the limiting structures of Soviet propaganda and the intuitions of the unpublishable work of the underground, as well as negotiations between what was permitted and prohibited by a totalitarian regime in disaster mode. Polina Barskova will explore the community of creative individuals discerning their radical differences and innovative techniques in political crisis.

In recent years, Polina Barskova has produced four book-length works across several genres, styles and languages. These include a prizewinning anthology of translations, Written in the Dark: Five Poets in the Siege of Leningrad (2016), works composed during the Nazi blockade of the city that lasted from September 1941 to January 1944 and claimed more than a million victims. Her scholarly study, Besieged Leningrad: Aesthetic Responses to Urban Disaster, written in English, appeared a year later. The same period witnessed the publication of two volumes composed in her native language. Her hybrid prose work Zhivye kartiny (Living Pictures) was published in Russian in 2014 and was awarded the prestigious Andrei Bely Prize; it now appears in vivid, resourceful translations by Catherine Ciepiela (English) and Olga Radetzkaia (German). Her ninth book of poems, Vozdushnaia trevoga (Air Raid), followed three years later; the acclaimed Belarusian poet Valzhyna Mort recently provided electric English translations of poems selected from over a decade of Barskova’s work in a collection of the same name. Barskova’s disparate work as scholar, archivist, anthologist and poet converges in her quest to retrieve what has been repressed in forbidden or forgotten pasts – including her own.