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Speaking on Radio Liberty


Through Paris to America
Tomas Venclova Poet
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Well, after that they issued me with a passport for travel abroad, they issued me with a visa, but that was a Soviet passport, it was a normal Soviet passport. And I was able to leave. I went to Berkeley but I got a ticket with the help of the French Legation that enabled me to break my journey, that is, to stop over in Paris. And the first place in the West that I found myself in was Paris. That was at the end of January and the beginning of February 1977. I remember Paris extremely well, I spent three weeks there. I stayed in the flat of acquaintances who were working at the French embassy; they let me stay there, gave me a key and so on... in a mansard loft, in a very modest mansard loft. And that was my first acquaintance with that city. And when I left I was still a Soviet citizen with that Soviet passport and the visa to America. I went to America to lecture there since Czesław Milosz had invited me to teach a course on [Yury] Lotman’s semiotics, which was then an innocent, non-political – although not entirely official – subject. And I began teaching that course at Berkeley. That was in the spring of '77, the spring semester.

Na, ir štai po to man jau išdavė užsienio pasą, išdavė vizą, bet tai buvo tarybinis pasas, tai buvo normalus tarybinis pasas. Ir aš galėjau išvažiuoti. Važiavau į Berklį, bet tokį bilietą gavau, su prancūzų pasiuntinybės pagalba, kad aš galėjau padaryti sustojimą, arba vadinamą stopoverį Paryžiuje. Ir kaip tik pirmojo Vakarų vieta, į kurią aš patekau buvo Paryžius. Tai buvo 1977-ųjų metų sausio galas ir vasario pradžia. Labai atsimenu Paryžių puikiai, jame praleidau tris savaites. Gyvenau pažįstamų iš prancūzų ambasados darbuotojų bute, jie man parūpino ten galimybę gyventi, raktą ir taip toliau. Mansardoje, tokioje labai kuklioje mansardoje. Ir tada pirmą sykį susipažinau su šiuo miestu. O po to išvykau, vis dar būdamas tarybinis pilietis, su tuo tarybiniu pasu ir amerikiečių viza. Išvykau į Ameriką, kad ten dėstyčiau, nes Česlovas Milošas mane ten pakvietė perskaityti kursą apie Lotmano semiotiką – tada toks nekaltas, nepolitinis, nors irgi ne visai oficialus dalykas., Ir aš ta kursą tenai Berklyje ir pradėjau skaityti. Tai buvo septyms [sic] septintųjų metų pavasaris, pavasario semestras.

Born in 1937, Tomas Venclova is a Lithuanian scholar, poet, author and translator of literature. He was educated at Vilnius University and later at Tartu University. As an active participant in the dissident movement he was deprived of Soviet citizenship in 1977 and had to emigrate. Between 1977 and 1980 he lectured at University of California, Berkeley, where he became friends with the Polish poet Czesław Miłosz, who was a professor of Slavic Languages and Literature at the school, as well as the Russian poet Joseph Brodsky. He is currently a full professor at Yale University.

Listeners: Andrzej Wolski

Film director and documentary maker, Andrzej Wolski has made around 40 films since 1982 for French television, the BBC, TVP and other TV networks. He specializes in portraits and in historical films. Films that he has directed or written the screenplay for include Kultura, which he co-directed with Agnieszka Holland, and KOR which presents the history of the Worker’s Defence Committee as told by its members. Andrzej Wolski has received many awards for his work, including the UNESCO Grand Prix at the Festival du Film d’Art.

Tags: Paris, France, USA, 02-1977, Czesław Miłosz, Yury Lotman

Duration: 1 minute, 38 seconds

Date story recorded: May/June 2011

Date story went live: 20 March 2012