Lydia Ginzburg’s Testimony from Inside the Leningrad Siege: An Unreconciled Memory, an Unwanted Heritage, and a Challenge for Today

Thursday, April 4, 2019
6:15pm - 8:15pm
Marshall D. Shulman Seminar Room, 1219 International Affairs Building (420 W 118th St)

Please join us for a lecture by Irina Sandomirskaja (Södertörn University, Sweden) as part of the Women and Resistance in Russia lecture series, convened by Professor Valentina Izmirlieva.

This event is supported by a grant from the Carnegie Corporation of New York.

The idea of resistance, which is the theme of this course, leads us directly into the world of heroic masculine imagination. In the writing of the French poet and hero of la Résistance René Char, we see his fellow men and women who are strong like Greek gods and invite Liberty herself to sit down to take a meal together. Char’s tragic ethos of resistance also informs his poetics, especially the poet’s relation to the truth: ”Between the world of reality and myself, there is none of that dreary impenetrability any more.” (Hypnos, No. 188)

In her notes from the time of Stalin’s terror and the siege of Leningrad, Lydia Ginzburg describes situations and behaviors that hardly qualify as resistance in Char’s understanding. Her protagonist and alter ego is a subject deprived of any pathos of virility. Caught in the deadly grips of famine, he (in fact, she, but referring to herself in the masculine gender) is not strong at all and has no meals to share, not even with Liberty. Ginzburg’s testament comes precisely from the domain of ”dreary impenetrability”: dark, cold, and empty Leningrad, the city of death.

Ginzburg rejects the tragic attitude and refuses to dispel the ambiguity that arises from her analyses. She remains unreconciled to the post-war celebratory memorialization of the blockade as a collective deed of patriotic heroism. This resistance to posterior mythologization is what makes her testimony so challenging nowadays, and the legacy in general after the Soviet generations so difficult to appropriate.

Irina Sandomirskaja is a Professor in the School of Culture and Education and Centre for Baltic and East European Studies at Södertörn University, Sweden. She works on Soviet history and culture, language theory and philosophy, and critical theory and philosophy. Her books include Blokada v slove: ocherki kriticheskoi teorii i biopolitki iazyka, which was awarded the Andrei Bely Prize in 2013.

Cosponsored by:
The Harriman Institute
Institute for Research on Women, Gender, and Sexuality
Office of the Dean of the Humanities
Columbia-Barnard Slavic Department

February 6, 6pm - Lilya Kaganovsky (University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign)
Mono/Dia/Polyphony: Muratova, Sound and Image”
Ella Weed Room, 223 Milbank Hall, Barnard

February 13, 6:30pm - Yevgenia Albats (New Times, Moscow)
“Anna Politkovskaya: Prevailing Against All Odds”
Marshall D. Shulman Seminar Room, 1219 International Affairs Building, Harriman Institute 

March 14, 4pm - Diana Burgin (University of Massachusetts)
“Tsvetaeva, (Parnok) and the ‘Unique-Traditional’ in Poetry, Life, and Translation”
The lecture will be followed by a signing of Professor Burgin's new book, Five Hard Pieces: Translations and Readings of Five Long Poems by Marina Tsvetaeva (2018).
754 Schermerhorn Extension, IRWGS

April 4, 6:15pm - Irina Sandomirskaja (Södertörn University, Sweden)
“Lidiya Ginzburg’s Testimony from Inside the Leningrad Siege: An Unreconciled Memory, an Unwanted Heritage, and a Challenge for Today”
Marshall D. Shulman Seminar Room, 1219 International Affairs Building, Harriman Institute