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2019 • Editing the Soviet Underground

ANN KOMAROMI, Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures,
and Centre for Comparative Literature, University of Toronto

Editing Samizdat – texts created for underground circulation in the USSR after Stalin – meant running certain risks. Of course, the spread of socio-political writing could provoke repressive measures; however, this conference focuses on the threats faced by those dealing with the literary and artistic texts of Samizdat. These threats – sometimes reflected in the material character of the editions – related to cultural loss, destruction of texts and the uncertain status of unofficial cultural values.

Moreover, while Samizdat editors, like authors and artists, worked outside and sometimes against official Soviet institutions and norms, many used official connections and resources to realize their agenda (that was, for example, how we possess a transcript of Joseph Brodsky's trial for social parasitism). The surreptitious nature of cultural production in the late Soviet underground raises fascinating questions about the editing and distribution of Samizdat. How do social networks, as they intersect with official institutions, make such processes possible? What kinds of editing happen to a text when it is memorized or passed from hand to hand?

The conference will be held on 20 and 21 November 2019 at Victoria College and the Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies in the University of Toronto.