Tsypkin, Leonid 1926-1982
TSYPKIN, Leonid 1926-1982
Born 1926, in Minsk, Russia; died of a heart attack, 1982, in Moscow, Russia; children: one son.
Doctor and medical researcher. Institute for Poliomyelitis and Viral Encephalitis, Moscow, Russia, research scientist.
Leonid Tsypkin wrote about Russian author Fyodor Dostoyevsky in his only published book, Summer in Baden-Baden, a "fiercely imagined, impeccably researched little novel," according to Washington Post Book World critic Marie Arana. Tsypkin, a native of Russia, originally finished the work in 1980 but held little hope of seeing it published; he had a tense relationship with government officials. Tsypkin had been demoted from his job at a research institute in Moscow, quite possibly as punishment for his son's immigration to the United States as well as his own unsuccessful efforts to obtain an exit visa. Tsypkin also kept his writings private, refusing to publicize his work. Still, Summer in Baden-Baden was smuggled out of Russia in 1981 and was scheduled to be published, in installments, in a weekly Russian-language newspaper in New York City. In the spring of 1982, shortly after the first installment appeared, Tsypkin died of a heart attack. He never saw his work in print. Summer in Baden-Baden received little notice until 2001, when a translated version was published in the United States.
Summer in Baden-Baden is "partly autobiography, partly a travelogue and partly a reimagining of Dostoyevksy's life," according to Vassily Aksyonov in the New Leader. The tale begins as an unnamed narrator travels by train to Leningrad to visit the Dostoyevsky Museum. The narrator carries a diary by Anna Grigoryevna, Dostoyevsky's second wife, that details the couple's turbulent summer in Baden-Baden, Germany, in 1867. Tsypkin intertwines two stories: that of the narrator and his passionate admiration of Dostoyevsky, the other of Dostoyevsky's months in Baden-Baden, during which he gambled compulsively, suffered epileptic fits, and wrestled with feelings of intense self-loathing. As David Bergman remarked in the Review of Contemporary Fiction, "Tsypkin's account is unsparingly frank. As a specialist in cancer's response to lethal viruses, Tsypkin approaches Dostoyevsky's self-destruction with the same unflinching, clinical fascination."
Critics observed that Summer in Baden-Baden is a challenging yet rewarding read. Steve Harris, reviewing the work for the online journal Samsära Quarterly, noted that "Tyspkin moves freely and confusingly through time, blurring the lines between the narrator's life and Dostoyevksy's life." In America Peter Heinegg stated that the work "is written in a breathlessly reeling, feverish style, with sentence-paragraphs that hectically spin and swirl, sometimes for pages, without pausing for a period." Yet, as Shaazka Beyerle wrote in Europe, Tsypkin's "prose is emotive without being flowery—it brings to life people, places, feelings, and impressions." Arana remarked that Summer in Baden-Baden "stands to change the way we think of twentieth-century Russian fiction. It is, in more ways than one, a chronicle of fevered genius." And Harris concluded, "Armed with some Dostoyevsky basics …the patient reader will be rewarded not only with a fine modernist meditation on one of Russian literature's greatest writers but also the story of one writer's devotion to the writing life."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
America, February 18, 2002, Peter Heinegg, review of Summer in Baden-Baden.
Europe, May, 2002, Shaazka Beyerle, review of Summer in Baden-Baden.
New Leader, November-December, 2001, Vassily Aksyonov, review of Summer in Baden-Baden.
New York Times Book Review, June 2, 2002, review of Summer in Baden-Baden.
Publishers Weekly, August 13, 2001, review of Summer in Baden-Baden.
Review of Contemporary Fiction, summer, 2002, David Bergman, review of Summer in Baden-Baden.
Washington Post Book World, January 13, 2002, Marie Arana, review of Summer in Baden-Baden.
Samsära Quarterly,http://www.samsaraquarterly.net/ (November 17, 2003), Steve Harris, review of Summer in Baden-Baden. *