Vasily Aksenov (Vasily Aksyonov) - Biography



Vasily Aksenov is the dissident, son of dissidents and one of the greatest writers of our time.

His works can justly be described as the annals of our time since they reflect conscientiously Russia’s history during the second half of the 20th century. As a child Vasily Aksenov sensed how tragic the Stalin era was. He was the son of a party official, Pavel Aksenov, who fell victim to repressions together with his wife, Vasily’s mother.

The childhood of the would-be writer is described in detail by his mother Evgeniya Ginzburg in her book "Steep Route." Evgeniya Ginzburg was a Russian historian and writer. Her name is frequently used in the West. This is one of the stories which frankly recount the horrors of repression and the life of political prisoners.

In February 1937, Vasily’s mother was expelled from the party ranks and then arrested for her alleged connections to the Trotskyites. Her parents were also arrested but released two months later. Her husband was arrested in July and sentenced to 15 years of "corrective labor" with the confiscation of his property. In August, Evgenia was also sentenced to ten years.

After Stalin's death in 1953, Ginzburg was able to visit Moscow and was fully rehabilitated in 1955, as were millions of wrongly convicted - many posthumously. She returned to Moscow, worked as a reporter and continued her work on her magnum opus memoir, “Journey into the Whirlwind” (English title). After the book was completed in 1967, all attempts to publish it in the USSR failed for political reasons and the manuscript was smuggled abroad, where it was widely published. Eventually, her book included 2 parts, in original Russian entitled "Krutoi marshrut I" and "Krutoi marshrut II" - "Harsh Route" or "Steep Route."

Aksenov vividly recalls his fifth birthday, because that was when he was taken by the Cheka secret police to a home for children of Soviet "enemies of the people," following the arrest of his parents. That night on 20 August 1937, young Vasily slept on a government-issue bed for the first time, burying his tear-stained face in his favorite toy lion. By morning, both Aksenov's toy and his childhood had been snatched from him. The boy was an involuntary witness to conversations between people who were sentenced for their political views. No doubt, their judgment influenced the world outlook of the would-be writer.

Aksenov graduated from the Leningrad Medical Institute in 1956 and worked as a doctor until 1960, at which time he turned professional writer.

Vasily Aksenov had become a celebrity following the publication of his first novel, “Colleagues,” in the immensely popular Yunost youth magazine in 1958. This million-copy success was followed by “Ticket to the Stars,” a national bestseller which made Aksenov famous across the whole of the Soviet Union.

The novels are keynoted with a love of freedom of thinking; their appearance was possible owing to the so-called period of "ideological thaw" upon which writers of younger generations pinned much hope. Aksenov's realistic novels brought him fame. They appear to be the author's confession; he makes wide use of young people's modern language. This was inadmissible in literature at that time and sparked criticism by the authorities. The author won a reputation as a trouble-maker. Prestigious publishing houses rejected his new works. Yet Vasily Aksenov was not one to be stopped in such a way. Shortly his novels "Oranges from Marocco," "It's Time, My Friend" and others in which he rather ironically portrays Soviet realities, appeared.

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