Testimony: from the literary memoirs of Semyon Izrailevich Lipkin (Hendon Press)


The Jewish, Odesa-born poet, Semyon Izrailevich Lipkin (1911–2003), was a central figure in modern Russian literature, although until recently, he was best known in the West for his role in preserving the manuscript of Vasily Grossman’s Life and Fate from the KGB. As a Soviet journalist in WW2, he witnessed and wrote about the horrors of Stalingrad, which led the Nobel Laureate Josef Brodsky to refer to him as ‘Russia’s war poet’. Later, during the years of Stalin’s deportation of ethnic groups, Lipkin translated and preserved the language and writings of Tajiks, Uzbeks, and Tatars and, in doing so, became a living repository of their culture for which he risked censure and arrest from the Soviet authorities.

In this memoir, Lipkin’s humanity, civic courage, and friendship with many important Russian writers – Anna Akhmatova, Marina Tsvetaeva, Andrei Platonov, and of course, Grossman himself – shine through the reports of terror and oppression that characterized this most turbulent period of Russian history.

Lipkin’s literary memoir is a riveting exploration of an epoch through the eyes of a remarkable witness who met and befriended some of the most notable Soviet writers of the twentieth century including Mandelstam, Tsvetaeva, Platonov, Akhmatova and, most importantly, Vasily Grossman. The story of Lipkin’s friendship with Grossman, which takes up most of the memoir, not only brings to life Grossman’s personality but also reveals that in the face of immense pressure neither Lipkin nor Grossman “lost the human in themselves”. Lipkin’s pen, to play with an expression found in this book in a letter by Grossman, is not powerless. On the contrary, it moves us and touches us deeply. We are much indebted to Green and Makarov for having made parts of Lipkin’s splendid memoir available to a wide readership. Thank you for having brought [him] to my attention. He is a wonderful writer.

– Professor Paolo Mancosu – author of Inside The Zhivago Storm (Feltrinelli 2013).


Yvonne Green is a poet descended from Boukharian Jews. Her pamphlet, Boukhara (2007), won The Poetry Business Book & Pamphlet Competition. She has published four full-length collections with Smith|Doorstop, including; The AssayHonoured and Jam & Jerusalem. Her volume After Semyon Izrailevich Lipkin was a UK Poetry Book Society Translation Choice in 2011.

Additional information

Dimensions 21 × 13.8 × 0.6 cm

Book, eBook (ePub)


9781739778514, 9781739778545

Publication Year

March 2023