LIBERTY PRIZE – 2001
Born on August 20, 1932, in Kazan, U.S.S.R., Vassily Pavlovich Aksyonov has gained increasing recognition as a writer of satirical, surrealistic fiction.
Called the Russian J. D. Salinger by many critics for his treatment of youth, alienation, and the search for meaning, Aksyonov has been praised for the wide scope of his novels, his social satire, and his historical scholarship. His works continue to be translated into English, and currently Aksyonov is again being recognized as a prominent voice in literature.
Widely known for his association with the "youth prose" movement in Russian literature, Vassily Aksyonov has established himself as a satirist whose topics include political corruption, the Soviet regime, alienation, adolescent angst, and cultural differences between the East and West. His surrealistic techniques coupled with his use of jargon and slang are trademark characteristics of Aksyonov's fiction. The blending of real historical events into his novels has also distinguished Aksyonov's work. Novels such as Ozhog (1980; The Burn) and Ostrov Krym (1981; The Island of Crimea) address a variety of issues such as political imprisonment, exile, corruption, and isolation.
The surrealistic novel The Burn has many autobiographical elements and traces the development of five alternate versions of Tolya Von Steinbock's persona. Divided into three section, The Burn focuses on three different periods in Tolya's life. In The Island of Crimea, set on the Crimean peninsula, Aksyonov imagines that Crimea is an autonomous society separated from the Soviet Union. The novel is another social satire reliant on a stretch of the imagination, but it is deemed less surrealistic and far-fetched than Aksyonov's previous works. Skazi izjum! (1985; Say Cheese!) presents an account of Aksyonov's emigration to America and provides an insightful look into Soviet culture and regime. Pokolenie zimy (1993; Generations of Winter) is a sweeping epic that begins during the 1920s and ends with the conclusion of World War II. The novel has been compared to the works of Leo Tolstoy and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.
Norton Townshend Dodge
Norton Townshend Dodge is a American economist who has amassed one of the largest collections of Soviet-era art outside the Soviet Union.
A Sovietologist who did pioneering work on the role of women under Joseph Stalin, Dodge smuggled into the West the works of dissident artists, painters and sculptors in the former Soviet Union. He continued to acquire art and meet clandestinely with artists, often at great personal risk, till the death of dissident artist Evgeny Rukhin and the coming of perestroika. He managed to smuggle nearly 10,000 works of art from the USSR to the United States during the height of the Cold War. Dodge's role in the preservation and patronage of art disallowed by the government led to his being called "the Lorenzo de' Medici of [[Russian art]Elena Kornetchuk in Mcphee 1994]." Dodge's work is detailed at length in John McPhee's The Ransom of Russian Art (1994).
Dodge appears in an Andrei Zagdansky documentary Vasya (2002) about a Russian Nonconformist artist Vasily Sitnikov. The latest award-winning documentary about Norton Dodge and his unique art collection "The Russian Concept: Reflections on Russian Non-Conformist Art" was produced in 2009 by Igor Sopronenko.
The Norton and Nancy Dodge Collection of Soviet Nonconformist Art, which contains roughly 20,000 works of art, was donated to Rutgers University in the mid-1990s, where it is on permanent display at the University's Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum.
Dodge is one of the founding board members of the Kolodzei Art Foundation, a US-based group dedicated to advancing the study of Russian non-conformist art.