Yuri Valentinovich Trifonov (tri-FAWN-awf) was one of the Soviet Union’s leading prose writers of the 1960’s and 1970’s. He was born in Moscow on August 28, 1925, the son of Valentin Trifonov, a longtime revolutionary activist. The elder Trifonov, who had joined the Bolshevik Party in 1904, had suffered imprisonment and exile under the czarist regime. By the time of the Russian Revolution of 1917, Valentin Trifonov was a member of the revolutionary council in Petrograd, and during the civil war of 1918-1921, he helped to organize units of the Red Army. His prominent position allowed him to obtain an apartment in “the house on the embankment,” a large gray structure in Moscow for high government officials and, later, the setting for Trifonov’s novel of that name. In 1937, during the purges ordered by Joseph Stalin, Trifonov’s father was arrested, and the following year he was executed. An important influence on Trifonov’s career was the effort to come to terms both with the revolutionary activities of his father and with his father’s disappearance while Trifonov was still very young.
In 1938 Trifonov’s mother was also arrested; until her release in 1946, he and his sister were raised by his grandmother. At the beginning of World War II, he was briefly evacuated to Central Asia, but then he returned to Moscow, where he worked at an airplane factory. In 1944 Trifonov, who had written both poetry and prose throughout his youth, entered the Gorky Literary Institute—Russia’s leading writers’ school. There he concentrated on prose, publishing his first stories, which were based on travels to Armenia and to the Kuban region, in 1947. He graduated from the institute in 1949; his thesis was the novel Students, which deals with academic life during the postwar years. The book was awarded a Stalin Prize and brought Trifonov early renown.
There was then a thirteen-year hiatus until the appearance of his next novel, Thirst Acquenched, which deals with the construction of an irrigation canal in Turkmenistan. His travels to the area resulted as well in the volume of stories Pod solntsem (under the sun). During the 1960’s Trifonov also wrote numerous stories and sketches on sports, which formed the...
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