Andrei Donatovich Sinyavsky was born in Moscow in 1925 and grew up there. He served in the Russian army during World War II. After the war, he was a student at the philological faculty of Moscow State University, one of the nation’s most prestigious institutions of higher learning. He eventually became a candidate of philological sciences, a degree equivalent to a doctorate in the United States, and he obtained a position as a senior staff member with the Gorky Institute of World Literature in Moscow. Sinyavsky immediately came to be regarded as a gifted critic; his book on postrevolutionary Russian poetry, Poeziya pervykh let revolyutsii, 1917-1920 (1964), coauthored with A. Menshutin, was considered one of the best studies of its time. His interests extended beyond literature to the plastic arts, and he collaborated with I. N. Golomshtok on a work about Pablo Picasso, Pikasso (1960).
Simultaneously with his activities as a critic, Sinyavsky pursued a secret career as a fantasy writer, using the name Abram Tertz; it was the revelations of de-Stalinization in 1956 that converted him from establishment critic to dissident author. Madame Hélène Peltier-Zamoyska, daughter of the French naval attaché in Moscow, had become close friends with Sinyavsky when they were students together at Moscow State University, and it was she who arranged for the publication of the works of “Tertz” in the West. In spite of Sinyavsky’s discretion, he was unmasked in 1965. He was tried in February, 1966, with fellow dissident writer Yuli Daniel, who had achieved fame in the West and notoriety in the Soviet Union as Nikolay Arzhak. Sinyavsky was sentenced to six years in prison, spending the time in a labor camp in Mordovia. He left the Soviet Union for France in 1973, thereafter teaching at the Sorbonne. The fine works that he has published since his departure attest Sinyavsky’s continued development as a writer.