Yury Dombrovsky

Soviet writer (1909-1978)

Yury Osipovich Dombrovsky [Ю́рий О́сипович Домбро́вский] (12 May 190929 May 1978) was a Russian writer who spent nearly eighteen years in Soviet prison camps and exile.

But you're not digging out there in the sand, are you? You're here in the clay, no sign of Tacitus or Euripides.


The Monkey Comes for His Skull (1943)Edit

  • The war hung over us like a storm cloud. […] They told us how the animals escaped from the zoo after the bombing raid and rushed about the streets. They fled not from people, but to people, and, let's say, the bear roared and shook its paw, the ostrich waved a burnt wing, and the elephant knelt, lifted its trunk and trumpeted plaintively. But what could people do when the earth was burning beneath them? A coral aspid, a very venomous and beautiful snake, slithered up to the sixth floor and meekly curled up under someone's bed. And in these stories about the ruins of great cities, about streets where African reptiles creep and dying elephants trumpet, there was something from Wells and from the Apocalypse — more generally from legends about the end of the world and the total destruction of humanity. (Russian text)

The Faculty of Useless Knowledge (1975)Edit

  • It was indeed a dead grove, made up of the corpses of trees. Even the wood of these corpses was non-living, a deathly grey, silver-green, with peeling bark; and the bark had also flaked, shrivelling and simply sloughing off like dead skin. And arching along all the dead twigs, crawled a supple, clutching, lashing, bold convolvulus-serpent. It was her leaves which glowed a cheerful green on the dead branches, on all their agonizing bifurcations; it was her flowers which hung on the branches from clusters of tiny suckers and tentacles, astonishingly tender and serene. They were so alien to that austere and honest deathly sterility that they seemed almost dazzling. It was like an explosion of something splendid, like the sombre and magical secret of that dead river and its dry valley. There was something about that copse reminiscent of the hut on chickens' legs, or Koschei's hoard, or the field sown with dead men's bones.
    • tr. Alan Myers, The Harvill Press, 1996, Part 1, Chapter 2, pp. 100-101
    • cited and discussed in Peter Doyle, Iurii Dombrovskii: Freedom Under Totalitarianism, Routledge, 2000, p. 145
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