July 01, 2002

Staring at the World With an Ironic Gaze

On August 20, Vassily Aksyonov turns 70. The son of party leader Pavel Aksyonov and author Yevgeniya Ginsburg (Into the Whirlwind), Aksyonov spent part of his childhood in Magadan, where his mother was incarcerated.

A trained doctor (in 1965 he graduated from the Leningrad Medical Institute), Aksyonov dedicated his first short novel, Colleagues, to three doctor friends. As such, he began carving a niche in the so-called “youth prose” of the time. (The book was later turned into a film of the same name.) Subsequent works were published in the aptly named literary journal Yunost (“Youth”) including “Ticket to the Stars” (1961), and “Oranges From Morocco” (1963).

Most of Aksyonov’s heroes are young physicists or doctors with lyrical souls who stare at the world with an ironic gaze, and are fans of jazz, sports and fashionable clothes. Needless to say, this was hardly the right combination of traits to please Soviet critics and censors.

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