Maria Stepanova


Original Russian title Памяти памяти , published by Novoe in November 2017
(German title: Nach dem Gedächtnis)
ca. 350 pages
Maria Stepanova
Foto: Maria Stepanova
© Valery Shibanov, Seledka Newspaper

Maria Stepanova, born in Moscow in 1972, is a poet, essayist, and journalist and one of the most visible figures of contemporary literary life in Russia. Editor-in-chief of the online newspaper colta.ru, in 2018/2019 Maria Stepanova will take up the Siegfried-Unseld guest professorship in Berlin. In 2018, she was awarded the Bolshaya Kniga Award for Post-Memory.

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»Post-Memory is the most important Russian novel of 2017.« GQ

Bolshaya Kniga Award 2018


Montpellier, 1908: the photograph of a young woman by an easel or »Grandma on the barricades«, as the family calls it. Pre-Revolution portraits, postcards from Venice, Montpellier, or Nizhny Novgorod, pieces from the »library of a very different and lost visual culture«, letters, childhood souvenirs – these are the things that the author examines in astonishment. Who were these people who travelled all throughout Europe yet lived in Russia? Who did their best to remain anonymous and who made little effort to make history seem interesting?

But it is precisely the unspectacular nature of the find which turns the author’s research in the Russian context into something new: »Everyone else had a family made up of people participating in history; mine was made up only of their tenants.« Destined to become victims of persecution and repression, they all still managed to survive the 20th century. How was that possible? This is the question and point of departure for Maria Stepanova’s first great work of prose.

In dialogue with, among others, writers like Roland Barthes, W.G. Sebald, Jacques Rancière, and Susan Sontag, imbued with a passion for thought and a wonderfully soft, poetic voice derived from sensual as well as intellectual observations, Stepanova assembles her found pieces into a panorama of an entire age. At its heart lives a large family of doctors, architects, librarians, accountants, and engineers, unheroic individuals who did not attach themselves to any great project but who in uncivilized, violent times attempted to live quiet, civilized lives.


»Maria Stepanova is one of Russia’s most influential cultural figures« The Moscow Times, Russia

»With its ingenious style Post-Memory is a book that comes at the right time« Neue Zürcher Zeitung, Switzerland

»Post-Memory is a multi-faceted, doubt-based essay on the nature of remembering.« Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Germany

»Post-Memory is the invitation to accompany Maria Stepanova on her way through the land of the dead back to the present day. No more and no less.« Süddeutsche Zeitung, Germany

»Profound philanthropy and an outstanding perspicaciousness shape this book, which offers greatest instruction and greatest pleasure. All the while, it is the exceedingly lively, sensuous language that keeps together the centrifugal forces of the book. The poet in Stepanova finds metaphors and symbolic objects of poetic ease and intellectual elegance. Not least of all, however, she prevents humour from falling prey to a blind cult of the past.« Neue Zürcher Zeitung, Switzerland

»Post-Memory is so much more than a novel: it is a poetically concentrated, unexaggeratedly formulated reflexion on the terms of the possibility, today, to affirm one’s own familial history, especially from a Russian-Jewish perspective.« NDR, Germany

»[Stepanova writes in] a fragmentary, self-critically reflective and at the same time heavily poetic language.« Berliner Zeitung, Germany

»The book is a direct and at the same time deeply moving account that reveals the author’s personal experience of having the weight of the dead and their remembrance on her shoulders in the midst of the disruptive entanglements of greater history. Oh, what a book. Read it.« Expressen, Sweden

»It seems as though Stepanova was shaking a kaleidoscope to get a coherent image, only to shake it again […]. A unique combination of earnestness, precise language and uninhibited tenderness.« Svenska Dagbladet, Sweden

»Her novel is a sequence of journeys without end or aim, I am captivated by them and sad about the fact that the book itself came to an end.« Dagens Nyheter, Sweden

»It’s been a long time since I have read such a rich, generous book. At once whirling and lucid, strict and delicate, funny and moving. Post-Memory is nothing less than a tender masterwork of beauty and intelligence.« Sydsvenska Dagbladet, Sweden

»Post-Memory by Maria Stepanova is far and wide the best book written in Russian in 2017. Stepanova writes in a Russian like no one else.« Afischa, Russia

»Post-Memory is the most important Russian novel of 2017. An extremely personal crime story in which the interpretation of the past reveals itself to be part of another, more political plot: how we can come to terms with ourselves in the present.« GQ, Russia

»Maria Stepanova has turned the dead into her co-authors. The result is a book that was unknown in Russian before – and seeks more of its kind in other languages.« Novaja Gaseta, Russia

»Not only the most important book of the year, but of recent years in general. This is true event - for all those who still know how to read.« Echo Moskvy, Russia

»A meta novel like this appears only once every ten years - a great literary reconstruction, which has created a whole new genre and sounds the relation between memory, time, and history.« Literratura, Russia

»Sometimes lucid, sometimes sought enigmatic, but always poetic and full of well-read references to international and Russian art and literature history with well-known and less well-known names such as Nabokov, Sontag, Hirsch, Celan, Borges, Barthes, Achmatova, Pasternak, Sebald, Mandelstam, Gogol and so on and so forth.« Marijke Laurense, Trouw

»One of the most important texts written in Russian in recent years. Stepanova's book gives grounds for claiming the triumphant return of Russian literature to the world literary scene.« Lev Oborin (Russian poet, critic and translator)