Tomas Venclova, born in 1937 in Klaipeda, is one of the major Eastern European poets of the 20th century. Venclova studied language and literature in Vilnius and then lived in Moscow and Leningrad. In 1977, after several years of being banned from publishing, he left the Soviet Union to take up a visiting professorship at the University of Berkeley. During that time, his Soviet citizenship was revoked. Most of his work was written in American exile. Venclova’s German translator, the author and essayist Durs Grünbein, enthusiastically described Venclova’s poems as “the least timely to be found in contemporary European literature.” In his writing, Venclova deals with his lost homeland and, in addition, with the natural images of the landscape and the language, creating significant lyric poetry, beguiling in its depth. He teaches Russian literature at Yale, and currently, during the 2010 spring/summer semester at the Institute of Comparative Literature at Freie Universität Berlin.
“Venclova’s song starts at the point where the voice usually breaks, at the end of exhalation, when all inner forces are used up.” (Joseph Brodsky)
Background Information about the Samuel Fischer Visiting Professorship
Since 1998, the Samuel Fischer Visiting Professorship for Literature has been awarded by the Institute of Comparative Literature at Freie Universität Berlin. It was set up jointly by S. Fischer Verlag, the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), Freie Universität Berlin, and the Lecture Forum of the Georg von Holtzbrinck Publishing Group. So far, such well-known authors as the Nobel Prize winner Kenzaburo Oe, Marlene Streeruwitz, Feridun Zaimoglu, Etgar Keret, Alberto Manguel, Yann Martel, Raoul Schrott, and Richard Powers have held the Samuel Fischer Visiting Professorship.