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“Most of us want to cry these days, that cry can become poetry”

November 4, 2023 Gordon Darroch

Emigration is a theme of Maxim Ospiov’s stories and essays, which chronicle the decay of Russian society. And the Russian exile has now made Amsterdam his home.

The first time Maxim Osipov left his native Moscow, he was full of hope. It was 1989 and the 25-year-old doctor took advantage of the thaw in Cold War relations to board a Pan Am plane – the airline had resumed flights to Moscow the year before – and visit a school friend in San Francisco.

Maxim Osipov. Photo: Annaleen Louwes

Editing other people’s work has made him more aware of the challenges literature faces in wartime. “It’s very difficult to find good prose,” Osipov says. “With poetry it’s much, much easier. There’s a big choice of excellent poets. And I understand why that is. Most of us want to cry these days, and you can turn that cry into a lyrical piece of verse, but for prose you need something else. Prose about war is always written after the war.”

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