22. ilb 07. - 17.09.2022

Maria Stepanova

Russian writer, poet, and essayist Maria Stepanova was born in Moscow in 1972. She studied at the Maxim Gorky Institute of Literature in Moscow and first made her debut as a poet. Her poems have appeared in renowned journals as well as in individual editions while her theoretical texts have been released in various essay collections.

Her philosophical-documentary novel »Pamjat pamjati« [2017; Eng. »In Memory of Memory«, 2021] is devoted to the theme of individual memories. With dense, poetic language, the »meta-novel« traverses an entire era and the history of her Jewish-Russian family, whose members belonged to the intelligentsia and had to protect themselves from the persecution mechanisms of the dictatorship in the 20th century. Stepanova’s text contains travelogues, reminiscences, descriptions of photographs, and questions the usual tendency in Russia to instrumentalize memories or even to make them taboo. She also casts doubt over the authenticity of oral history of both a private and social nature. »The fact that sources can lie and that memory always resembles invention is the slippery floor on which the book moves doubtfully and gropingly and yet with wandering certainty« [»NZZ«]. Translations of Maria Stepanova’s poems into German appeared in »Der Körper kehrt wieder« [2020; tr: The Body Returns]. A political dimension is also evident in her lyrical texts, for example, in her mention of the dead who take shape as victims of the dramatic Russian history of the 20th and 21st centuries – be it those of World War I or those in the Donbass. The German-language translations of her poetry in the volume »Mädchen ohne Kleider« [2022; tr: Girls Without Clothes] are primarily about the appropriation of the female body by the male gaze and pornography, but also about the incorporation of the ephemeral human body into nature.

In 2018/19 Stepanova was a guest lecturer at the Humboldt University in Berlin [Siegfried Unseld Professorship]. In March 2022, she joined other Russian-language writers in calling for the truth about the war in Ukraine to be spread within Russia. Stepanova’s works have been translated into Bulgarian, Hebrew, Spanish, Italian, Finnish, French, and repeatedly into English, among other languages, including as part of a 2017 translation contest organized by »Sides of the World« magazine specifically dedicated to her poetry. Maria Stepanova has received many awards for her work, including the prestigious Russian literary prize Bolshaya kniga [2018] and and, together with her translator Olga Radetzkaja, the literary and translation prize Brücke Berlin [2020].

From 2007 to 2012, she headed the Internet portal OpenSpace.ru. After that, she became editor-in-chief of Colta.ru, an Internet magazine for culture, society, and politics. The author lives in Moscow.

Date: 2022