(2079) Shiffers, Evgenii. (1934-1997). “Smertiia Smert’ Poprav”
(after a verse of liturgical chant where is written: d’après un vers du chant liturgique où il est écrit : Jesus has chased away, he has killed death with death).
Copy of the original typescript, 227 pages. 31cm x 20,5cm. Hardbound in black worked morocco, gold titling and illustrations. Samizdat dated 1975.
Tri knigi: No.1 Avtobiografiia (109p), No.2 Edip i Iisus (100p), No.3 Prostaia kniga Fomy (24p).
1+2+118+106 pages. This, the definitive version is in three books.
Writer little known to the greater Russian public, Shiffers is considered as a veritable writer’s writer in the manner of Beckett, Joyce, Kafka or Proust. In the theatre, however, he had an outstanding reputation. In 1964 he graduated from the Leningrad Institute of Theatre, Music and Cinematography and his performances met with enormous success, but the Party accused him of Formalism, the most severe of accusations one could level at an artist, and he was forbidden to work in any of the Leningrad theatres. Shiffers left Leningrad hounded by the vitriol directed at him.
His ned effort from 1966-67 was directing the film “Pervorossiiane” but the final cut never made it past the censors and was denied release so Shiffers moved to Moscow where for the length of the 1970’s he would develop his friendships with celebrated artists, philosophers and writers. His work and time for this period contrasts starkly with 1980’s which would be a time of reclusion for philosophical and religious research. At the centre of his attention was Buddism, Orthodoxy, the Russian Sainthood and genius.
In the winter of 1967-68 Shiffers, without the possibility of finding work, poor and ill, stayed with friends in Tarusa where he worked on, according to his own words, a “bizarre” novel preoccupied with death, several parts of which had been started in 1964. The novel could never be published for the same reasons that his performances and film had been forbidden. There was nothing particularly incriminating in the novel but the spectre of the accusation of “Formalism” followed even his newest work. Those who read the book found it to leave a powerful and haunting impression undoubtedly fuelled by Shiffers’ own experiences. The semi-autobiographical novel and confession takes place largely in conversations between the author and the hero, the metaphysical dialogue contrasting strands of Russian thinkers, the dead and the living, in an attempt to thwart death.
This samizdat was offered to Anatolii Leïkin, the man considered as being the publisher for the dissidence, in 1975 by Shiffers himself. The second example was given to another friend who emigrated in the hopes that the novel would be published in the West. This, unfortunately, would never come to pass.
There are two prefaces in this copy, neither of which appear in the edition of 2004. The first is taken from a family album “Preodolenie Gutenberga” Shiffers had put together with his little sister Masha at the beginning of the 1970’s, he writing and her drawing. This little preface on an old photograph lost during the Leningrad blockade is extracted from this album and concentrates on the Shiffers family.
The second preface was probably destined for the publication in the West much hoped for by Shiffers and his friends.