Podcast: Then & Now #10 – Teresa Cherfas in conversation with the writer Maxim Osipov

17 August 2023

by Teresa Cherfas

Welcome to the tenth edition of our Russian-language podcast Then & Now with me, Teresa Cherfas. 

My guest today is the author Maxim Osipov.  Following in the great Russian tradition of Chekhov and Bulgakov, he has pursued a career in medicine in parallel with that of a writer.  For his works of fiction – for the most part short stories that are sharp and witty commentaries on modern-day life in the Russian provinces – Maxim Osipov has won a number of literary prizes, and his plays have been staged as well as broadcast on the radio in Russia. Osipov’s works have been translated into 18 languages. His books published in English include the collections of short stories Rock, Paper, Scissors and Other Stories and Kilometer 101 (see my review in Rights in Russia from earlier this year).

Shortly after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Maxim Osipov signed several letters condemning Putin’s military operation.. He left Russia on 4 March 2023 and now lives in the Netherlands where he has launched a new quarterly literary journal,  The Fifth Wave

This recording was made on 11 August 2023.

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My questions:

  • You left Russia almost immediately after the Russian army invaded Ukraine. How did you come to take such a decision? How difficult was it for you?
  • Before you left Russia you successfully combined the professions of cardiologist in Tarusa with that of a writer of short stories and other works of literature. How did these two roles complement one another?
  • Do the current policies of Putin’s Russia allow you to be a writer? What is the duty or role of a Russian writer in today’s situation?
  • What’s your reaction when accusations of imperialism and ‘colonial thinking’ are made against some of the classics of Russian literature? To what extent are they justified? Do you see attempts outside Russia to cancel Russian culture, as is claimed by Russian propaganda?
  • In justifying the invasion of Ukraine, Putin set out his interpretation of history, claiming that Ukraine belongs to the ‘Russian world.’ To what extent does such use of history as justification have a place in the contemporary world?
  • You have recently begun publication of a new journal. Tell us about it and your aims and aspirations for it.
  • You have named your magazine The Fifth Wave. You wrote earlier that this wave of emigration is most similar to the first wave after 1917. What did you have in mind?
  • Do you continue to write fiction in emigration? You no longer practice as a doctor, so where do you get your material from?
  • How do you find life in emigration?
  • Are there circumstances under which you would return to Russia?

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