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 Andrei Bitov

Born:   27 May 1937



Andrei Bitov who has been recently granted with the Bunin Award 2006 for his selected prose works Palace Without a Tsar is deservedly considered a classic of Russian literature of the second half of the 20th century. His intellectual prose in a spontaneous and yet exquisite style takes a special niche in contemporary Russian literature. Bitov’s works have been translated into a number of European languages such as English, German, Swedish, French and Italian.

Bitov Andrei Georgievich was born on May 27, 1937 in Leningrad (St. Petersburg). During the siege of Leningrad in 1942 Andrei and his mother were evacuated to the Urals and then to Tashkent (Uzbekistan). In 1955 Andrei entered Leningrad Institute of Mines. In 1957 - 1958 the studies were interrupted by serving the army, in the North of the country. After graduating from the institute in 1962 Bitov worked as a foreman having boring duties in geological expeditions.

Andrei Bitov Bitov started writing in 1956. The first publication took place in 1960, when the almanac Young Leningrad issued his short story Grandma’s Tea Bowl. His first collection of short stories A Big Ball was published in 1963. In the 60s the main character of Andrei Bitov was a person clashing with reality by existential rather than ideological reasons. In this sense Bitov’s protagonist was different from literary characters created by the majority of “men of the sixties”.

Andrei Bitov In 1965 Bitov entered the Soviet Writers Union. In 1967 he graduated from the Higher Courses for scriptwriters at the Union of Cinematographers in Moscow to start working in the sphere of cinema. He became the co-author of the script for the Soviet-Japanese film Malenkiy beglets (aka The Little Runaway) (1966) by Eduard Bocharov and Teinosuke Kinugasa, and wrote the scenario for V chetverg i bolshe nikogda (aka On Thursday and Never Again) (1977) by Anatoli Efros. Bitov even had a small actor experience in the film Chuzhaya belaya i ryaboy (Wild Pigeon) (1986) by Sergei Solovyov.

Andrei Bitov Andrei Bitov traveled much around the former Soviet Republic territories and a number of his books are ingenious travel memoirs, such as The Lessons of Armenia (1969), and Seven Adventures (1976) about his experience in Armenia, Georgia, Bashkiria, the Middle Asia, and the Russian North.

Andrei Bitov provided a deep insight into the history and the present reality of Russia in his novel Pushkin House published in the USA in 1978. The experimental style of the book made it deservedly considered one of the first postmodern novels.

Andrei Bitov After this publication in America and Bitov’s participation in the compilation of the non-censored almanac Metropol in 1979 the authorities banned publication of his works in the USSR. He was also prohibited to leave the country. Nevertheless, his books were published in Western Europe and the States. And it was only the start of Perestroika in 1985 that made Bitov’s further publications in homeland possible. The year 1986 saw the publication of his books Georgian Album, Man in Landscape, and Articles from the Novel in Russia. In 1987 Bitov wrote the novel Flying-Away Monakhov, which made him the laureate of the National Award of the RF in 1992.

Cover Book In 1992-1993 the Berlin Scientific Board ("Wisshenschafts Kolleg") provided Bitov with conditions to work on his favorite theme. Interestingly, such a privilege had been given only to two Russians before Bitov: Alfred Shnitke and Otar Ioseliani. This resulted in completing The Empire in Four Dimensions published in Russia in 1996. The Empire… corresponds to the sequence of English-language publications: Life in Windy Weather, Pushkin House, Captive of the Caucasus, and The Monkey Link.

Bitov is also a poet: his two books of poetry are The Tree and On Thursday after the Rain.

Andrei Bitov Andrei Bitov initiated the creation of the Russian Pen-Club, which he has been the president of since 1991.

As for his spare time, the writer says that time often turns his hobbies into professions. Love of cinema gave him the profession of scriptwriter, love of books brought him to participation in designing his own books, and love of music resulted in creation of the Pushkin Jazz project, in which recital of Pushkin’s drafts is accompanied by jazz improvisations.

In 1998-1999 the Pushkin Jazz toured in New York, Berlin, St. Petersburg and Moscow.

Andrei Bitov Bitov’s dislike of monumental sculpture brought him to the idea of mini-monumentalism (jointly with Revaz Gabriadze): some of the examples are represented by such works as the monument to Chizhik-Pyzhik in St.-Petersburg or to Hare in Mikhailovskoye, etc.

The very idea of uniting profession with hobby resulted in creation of the informal association BaGaGe (Baggage) (Bitov, Akhmadullina, Zhvanetsky, and others).

As Bitov has once said, all his life is “an entire journey that can be no longer called a hobby”.

Andrei Bitov lives in Moscow and St. Petersburg and teaches in universities of Europe and the USA.




Vera Ivanova and Mikhail Manykin


Tags: Andrei Bitov Russian literature Russian writers   

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