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Dostoevsky in Docklands

01 Oct 2019

Dostoevsky in Docklands Image

By Spencer Fowler Steen

Sentenced to death, exiled in Siberia, involved in scandalous love affairs - Fyodor Dostoevsky’s life was nothing short of dramatic.

His experiences shaped his towering works of literature, which are being celebrated at Library at the Dock this month as part of the 30th anniversary of Melbourne’s sister city relationship with St Petersburg this month.

President of sister cities association Melburg Alla Petrov said 20 central episodes in the writer’s life and works would be displayed using digitally recreated lithographs, engravings and photos from the 19th century.

“We’re a group of philanthropes who like to do things for St Petersburg and Melbourne,” she said. “We’ll also have a video playing about celebrating Dostoevsky Day in St Petersburg where the whole city comes together at the height of summer - it’s a beautiful celebration.”

The 20 posters, each two metres tall and one metre wide, are accompanied by stories and information about Dostoevsky translated from Russian.

Acclaimed playwright Dr Judith Armstrong was tasked with translating the posters from Russian to English, but said it wasn’t as straightforward as she thought.

Some of the posters arrived were already translated in English.

“When a foreigner speaks English you understand them, but they’re not saying it the way you’d say it. It sounded like filtered language – language you’d learn at school,” she said.

“Alla said to me ‘these are people who want to say things in a certain way, so try and capture that.’ This was different to how I usually loosely translate Russian to make it more understandable for English speakers.”

In the past, Melburg has organised many cultural exchanges between Melbourne and St Petersburg.

Dr Armstrong’s play Chekov and the Lady was performed in St Petersburg along with screenings of a film made by Melbourne Victorian College of the Arts (VCA) students.

But Ms Petrov said this was the first time this exhibition from Dostoevsky Museum in Saint Petersburg had been to Australia.

“After the exhibition in Docklands we’d like to take it to other libraries in Victoria,” she said. “We want people to become familiar with Dostoevsky.”

“This was an extraordinary person with an extraordinary life up for you to see,” she said.

Dostoevsky: Life, Works and Events is on at Library at the Dock from October 9 to October 31 and is free for all.

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