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V-A-C Sreda

Featuring specially commissioned artworks, a podcast series and a selection of timely essays, Sreda magazine offers a nuanced view on Russian culture and contemporaneity. Content is available for a limited period of time and updated every Wednesday. The Russian word ‘sreda’ means Wednesday and also defines the natural, geographical and social environment.

Maria Mamleeva: in the Darkness of the Absolute

What is immortality in Yuri Vitalievich Mamleev‘s philosophy? What role did emigration play in his life? How was his novel The Sublimes received and how did he influence contemporary Russian literature? In our podcast, Eduard Lukoyanov, editor of the Gorky Media website, talks to Maria Alexandrovna Mamleeva about the creative path of one of Russia‘s leading writers of the 20th century.

This episode is in Russian.

Press here to see the English summary of the podcast.

Religious and philosophical literature was hard to come by in the USSR, but Mamleev managed to read Western mystics such as Meister Eckhart and Böhme thanks to his wife, Maria Alexandrovna Mamleeva, who obtained passes to the storerooms of the Lenin Library in Moscow through acquaintances. Also in the Lenin Lorary, the writer read the works of René Guénon, a 20th century French philosopher, a considerable part of whose work is dedicated to Indian metaphysics.

Mamleev was not keen on the works of the prominent Russian cosmist philosopher, Nikolai Fedorov, despite their apparent ideological affinity. He was, however, drawn by Andrei Platonov’s writings, with which he became acquainted in exile. Maria Alexandrovna says that her husband was an avant-garde writer, so that his contemporaries did not understand him, but he was and still is well-received by the young. Eduard Lukoyanov believes that Mamleev's world view finds an audience today through such authors as Mikhail Elizarov. Maria Alexandrovna notes that Elizarov is a friend of the family and an admirer of Mamleev, but that Elizarov and Mamleev are ‘completely different people’, since Mikhail has a streak of cruelty, while Mamleev was a gentle man who strove to find himself in Christianity.

Talking of religion, Maria Alexandrovna relates that Mamleev was baptized in the USA. She herself was baptized in Moscow in the 1970s under the influence of her husband. Mamleev introduced his wife to various patristic authors: Basil the Great, Simeon the Theologian, Ephraim the Syrian and others. Mamleev and his wife were also in communication with dissident priests in the USSR, notably with Dmitry Dudko, who baptized Maria Alexandrovna. She recalls that adherents of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia often scolded the official Russian Church, accusing its priests of collaborating with the KGB, which, Maria Alexandrovna is convinced, was a ‘baseless slander’. Yuri Mamleev was therefore baptized in an autocephalous church loyal to the Moscow Patriarchate, which is also where he and his wife were married. Life in emigration was not easy for the Mamleevs, because Yuri was not considered to be a dissident and was not known in the West. When the Mamleevs came to the USA, Maria Alexandrovna took a job as a secretary at the émigré newspaper Novoye Russkoye Slovo.

Maria Alexandrovna had a special relationship with animals. As a schoolgirl she used to visit Moscow Zoo with the Young Naturalists Club and became attached to a she-wolf called Nochka. One day the zoo keepers allowed her to take Nochka for a walk on a leash outside the cage. The powerful animal jerked on the leash and pulled Maria behind it for some distance until the girl dug in her heels and managed to drag Nochka back to her cage.