Performance of Exile: Poet-Translators in The Leningrad Underground

Miriam Rossi


Literary translation during the Soviet period has been mostly analysed in terms of conforming to or resisting the dominant ideology. However, there were spaces where translation practices were to a certain extent free from this dichotomy, though excluded from the official literary field. The focus of the article is the particular condition of displacement or exile experienced by the underground poets who lived in Leningrad during the 1980s. The samizdat poet-translator plays the role of an exile, living on the fringes of the society and creating a network in the underground. The outcomes of this “performance of exile” are the translated texts, which show the handprints of the translator’s conditions. The article responds to Anthony Pym’s call for humanizing Translation History, and, using the sociological tools developed in Translation Studies by Daniel Simeoni and Moira Inghilleri, it investigates the role of context, agent and text in the poetry translation practice of late samizdat.

The research prestented in this article has been financed by the Estonian Research Council under the research grant PRG1206: “Translation in History, Estonia 1850–2010: Texts, Agents, Institutions and Practices”.

* Originally published in Polish in Przekładaniec vol. 41, 2020 (DOI:

Słowa kluczowe: poetry translation, samizdat, Leningrad, translation sociology, exile

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