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Vladimir Voinovich, Dissident Russian Writer, Dies at 85

By August 2, 2018No Comments

Source : The New York Times

Vladimir Voinovich, a Russian writer whose satirical novels vexed the Soviet authorities in the Leonid Brezhnev era, resulting in his banishment from the country for a decade, died on Friday in Moscow. He was 85.

Vladimir R. Medinsky, Russia’s culture minister, confirmed the death in a condolence statement on Sunday. The cause was a heart attack, Mr. Voinovich’s friend Yulia Pessina said on Facebook.

Mr. Voinovich first incurred the displeasure of the authorities by supporting high-profile dissidents in the mid-1960s. Then he really inflamed them with his novel “The Life and Extraordinary Adventures of Private Ivan Chonkin.” The book did not clear the Soviet censorship bar in 1969 but circulated underground and was published in Europe four years later.

Mr. Voinovich found himself under scrutiny by the K.G.B., and later said that he believed that during one of its interviews with him in 1975 the agency poisoned him with a cigarette that had been laced with some sort of hallucinogen.

He left the country in 1980 — not quite exiled, perhaps, but certainly emigrating with official encouragement. Although the authorities usually resisted having Soviet writers go abroad, he told The New York Times in 1981, “in my case they were so sick of me they wanted me to go anywhere.”

He moved to West Germany to join the faculty of the Institute of Fine Arts in Munich, and the next year his Soviet citizenship was revoked. Not until Mikhail S. Gorbachev and the glasnost era a decade later was he able to return.

By that time he had published several other works in the West, including “Moscow 2042” (1986), a futuristic story in which an exiled Russian writer living in Munich in 1982 is given a chance to take a Lufthansa flight 60 years into the future.

“ ‘Moscow 2042’ captures a sense not only of historical anxiety but great comic freedom, and mixes social vision with a very modern view of the game of fiction,’ ” Malcolm Bradbury wrote in The New York Times Book Review in 1987. “It is, quite simply, a wonderful book, written by a man who has been forged within our difficult modern history but who still manages to possess a profound sense of literary play.”

Mr. Voinovich, though free to live and publish in modern Russia, remained something of a dissident until the end, regularly voicing alarm about President Vladimir V. Putin and the revival of authoritarianism.

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