Maria Stepanova: Memory Is like Moving Through a Country
"Memory is something we produce. The same story could be told in a dozen of different ways by a single person, but when it goes with the family, the multitude of versions might be striking."
Russian poet Maria Stepanova on tracing memory as a literary method. Read more …
In her award-winning prose memoir ‘In Memory of Memory’, Maria Stepanova investigates the nature of memory by telling her family’s story. At the same time, it is a history of post-Soviet Russia. Stepanova grew up in an apartment in Moscow crowded with the leftover possessions of past generations: their books, teacups, newspapers, clothes, postcards, toys, photographs, and fragments of family anecdotes.
From early on, she remembers: “I was maybe ten or nine, and my mother was bringing me up as a possible writer: She made me keep a diary. There was a passage about my father asking me what I could make of memory. What does memory represent for me? And I said: ‘Memory is an ability to collect things.'”
“I find it quite indescribable that when I visited my aunt in her 80ies, there were yellowish newspapers, magazines, and boxes of something. I am not talking about memorabilia, notebooks, etc, but even I wished to, I couldn’t keep on the skyscraper of printed paper, but for sure, she was investing some meaning in them. It kept her life intact. For me, it was a devastating maze of information, and that was where my book, ‘In Memory of Memory,’ started itself.”
Maria Stepanova, born in 1972, is a Russian poet, essayist and journalist. She is the author of more than 10 collections of poetry. ‘War of the Beasts and Animals’ came in the US in 2021 along with ‘The Voice Over’ (2021), which includes a selection of Stepanova’s poetry and essays originally published in Russia between 1996 and 2016. In Russia she has received many important literary prizes, including the Pasternak Prize and the Andrei Bely Prize in 2005, and the Moscow Account Prize in 2006, 2009, and 2018. Stepanova’s work has been translated into English, Hebrew, Spanish, Italian, German, Finnish, French, Danish, and other languages. In 2021 ‘In Memory of Memory’ was shortlisted for the Booker Prize. Stepanova was appointed Siegfried-Unseld Guest Professor at Humboldt Universität in Berlin in 2018–2019. In 2007, Stepanova founded Openspace.ru, an online magazine dedicated to Russian-language arts and culture. She served as editor-in-chief of Openspace.ru until 2012, when she left the publication along with the majority of her editorial staff due to a withdrawal of funding from private investors. Stepanova disagreed with investor oversight amid the uncertain Russian political landscape; this droves her to found Colta.ru, the first Russian media outlet supported entirely by crowdfunding, providing Stepanova more editorial freedom as editor-in-chief.
Lotte Folke Kaarsholm interviewed Maria Stepanova in August 2022 in connection with the Louisiana Literature festival at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Denmark,
Camera: Simon Weyhe
Edit: Signe Boe Pedersen
Produced by Christian Lund
Copyright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2023
Louisiana Channel is supported by Den A.P. Møllerske Støttefond, Ny Carlsbergfondet, C.L. Davids Fond og Samling and Fritz Hansen.
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