No Turning Back: An Evening with Maxim Osipov - Oklahoma Center for the Humanities

No Turning Back: An Evening with Maxim Osipov

Event will take place 7pm on Tuesday, Jan. 24. Event to be held at the Zarrow Center downtown.

To attend virtually, click here.

Photograph by Elena Anosova for The New Yorker

Maxim Osipov is known for his uncompromisingly honest and introspective stories of life in the provinces of Putin’s Russia, in Moscow, and among Russophone émigrés abroad. Shortly after the launch of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Osipov himself became an émigré, leaving Russia for good. In an essay published by The Atlantic earlier this year, he documents this experience of leaving Russia for Armenia and then arriving, finally, on German soil. Osipov sums up the experience in three words: “cold, ashamed, relieved.” These aren’t the only characterizations Osipov offers, however: “life collapsing,” “suffocation, shame, and hatred.” Above all, the essay conveys a journey that is psychologically taxing—from packing one’s bags and choosing which items to bring, to answering questions while interrogated by Russian authorities at airport terminals, to reflecting on the devastation wrought in Ukraine.

It’s a surprisingly empathetic essay, one that charts the complex web of relations the author feels between other Russian citizens including friends and family, Ukrainian civilians, and soldiers on both sides of the conflict. As Osipov charts his own interior geography, the terrain is rocky– rough around the edges as it abruptly transitions and shifts between ideas, as it jumbles up references to history and pop culture. What emerges, ultimately, is an author who is torn— torn between ideas and unable to focus, torn between feelings of shame and relief at leaving, torn between Russian culture and Russian government, and torn as an émigré without a clear sense of home. “Is it appropriate to grow sentimental,” Osipov asks, “when Russian bombs are falling on Kharkiv and Kyiv, Mariupol and Lviv?”

His latest collection of stories and essays in English, Kilometer 101 (NYRB Classics), serves as a kaleidoscopic chronicle of Russia’s descent from 2007 through the days leading up to the disastrous events of 2022. What does freedom mean in this context? In the wake of this history? The OCH is excited to host Maxim Osipov who will read from Kilometer 101 and discuss literature and politics with Boris Dralyuk, Presidential Professor of English at the University of Tulsa, the book’s editor and co-translator.

Maxim Osipov is a Russian writer and cardiologist. In the early 1990s he was a research fellow at the University of California, San Francisco, before returning to Moscow, where he continued to practice medicine and also founded a publishing house that specialized in medical, musical, and theological texts. In 2005, while working at a local hospital in Tarusa, a small town ninety miles from Moscow, Osipov established a charitable foundation to ensure the hospital’s survival. Since 2007, he has published short stories, novellas, essays, and plays, and has won a number of literary prizes for his fiction. Osipov’s writings have been translated into more than a dozen languages. He lived in Tarusa up until February 2022, when he moved to Germany.