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Dmitry Bykov and Ian Singleton

4:30 p.m. Monday, September 9, 2024

University at Albany
Multi-Purpose Room, Campus Center West
1400 Washington Avenue Albany NY 12222 -  See map.

Dmitry Bykov, major Russian literary figure, is the author of more than 90 books. His newest is VZ: Portrait Against the Background of the Nation (English translation, 2024), a meditation in fiction on the significance of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

An outspoken critic of the Putin regime, Bykov and his work are banned from publication, media and university classrooms in Russia. He narrowly survived an assassination attempt by poisoning in April 2019.

Biography of Dmitry Bykov (from the University of Rochester)

Of all of Dmitry Bykov’s professions—journalist, biographer, public intellectual, novelist, poet, media personality, professor of literature—he likes that of poet the best. “Traditionally, writing poetry is considered a prestigious occupation in Russia, because a poet is a prophet, a pillar of civil disobedience,” he states in a 2016 LA Times interview. At the same time, he considers the academic environment to be his “natural habitat.” He loves to teach and write about literature.


As a scholar, Bykov has written prize-winning biographies of the Russian poets Vladimir Mayakovsky and Boris Pasternak; the poet, guitar bard and writer Bulat Okudzhava; the writer Maxim Gorky; and, most recently, president Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine (soon to be published in English translation).

As a novelist, Bykov has been called one of the faces of contemporary Russian literature whose novels “balance quasi-realistic verisimilitude with modernist phantasmagoria” (Oxford History of Russian Literature). His best-known work in the West is Living Souls (2005), which, according to the Independent, blends “a novel

Dmitry Bykov
Dmitry Bykov's VZ: Portrait Against the Background of the Nation

of ideas with a fairy-tale and satire with lyricism” in its picture of Russia in the near future, where war rages between liberal Westernizing forces and statist nationalists, each of whom “endlessly take turns at colonizing Russia” (Oxford History of Russian Literature). An extremely prolific writer, Bykov is the author of some 90 books, including 5 biographies, 12 novels, and 20 collections of poetry.


One of Bykov’s most famous projects is “Citizen Poet” in which he satirizes social and political realities in Russia through verses based on famous poems in Russian and world literature that are publicly performed or recorded on YouTube. Bykov was also a prominent participant in the famous “strolls with writers” protest in Moscow in May 2012, after authorities prohibited public rallies in the wake of Putin’s re-election to a third term. Leading writers used social media to organize literary readings while strolling along Moscow boulevards as a protest against Putin’s increasing authoritarianism.


Bykov twice refused personal invitations to meet with President Putin as part of the president’s discussions with members of Russia’s cultural elite. In April 2019, as the result of his outspoken criticism of the Putin regime, Bykov was poisoned by the same Russian FSB operatives who a year later poisoned political opposition leader Alexei Navalny (see the investigation by the news organization Bellingcat). He was banned from teaching at Russian universities or appearing on Russian state-controlled media. He left Russia in 2022 just before Putin invaded Ukraine and was declared a "foreign agent" by the Russian government. In December 2023, his books were officially banned from Russian bookstores and libraries.

Bykov has taught at Moscow State University, Princeton, UCLA, and also worked as writer in residence at Cornell. In spring 2024 he was named Inaugural Humanities Center Scholar in Exile at the University of Rochester, where he is now teaching in the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures.

Biography of Ian Singleton (from Poets & Writers)

​​Ian Singleton, novelist, Russian translator, and instructor in UAlbany’s Writing & Critical Inquiry Program (WCI), is the author of Two Big Differences (2021), a novel about two friends, Zina and Valinka, who are caught up in a wave of civil unrest during the 2014 Maidan Uprising in Ukraine— a mass protest against government corruption and Russian political influence. Writer-in-exile Mikhael Iossel called it, “Brightly original, structurally inventive, thoughtful and wise.”


He is a professor of Writing and Critical Inquiry at the University at Albany. His short stories, translations, reviews, and essays have appeared in journals such as: Saint Ann's Review; Cafe Review; New Madrid; Midwestern Gothic; Fiddleblack; Asymptote; Ploughshares; The Los Angeles Review of Books and Fiction Writers Review. His short-story collection manuscript Grow Me Up and Other Oaths was a finalist for the 2020 Tartts Fiction Award. He judged the 2017 Hopwood Award contest at the University of Michigan.


Ian has taught Creative Writing and Literature for New York Writers Workshop, San Francisco State University, Cogswell Polytechnical College, the Prison University Project, and the PEN Prison Writing Program.

Cosponsored by UAlbany’s Writing & Critical Inquiry Program (WCI) and the English Department’s Creative Writing Program and Young Writers Project.

Ian Ross Singleton
Ian Ross Singleton's Two Big Differences, Two Big Differences
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