|Born||Venedict Vasilyevich Yerofeyev
October 24, 1938
Niva-3 settlement, suburb of Kandalaksha, Murmansk Oblast, Russian SFSR
|Died||May 11, 1990
Moscow, Russian SFSR
Yerofeyev was born in the maternity hospital of Niva-3 by Kandalaksha, Murmansk Oblast, a settlement of "special settlers" employed in the construction of a hydroelectric power station Niva GES-3 on the Niva River. The record made in his birth certificate declares his birthplace to be his parents' place of residence: Chupa railway station, Loukhsky District, Karelian ASSR. His father was imprisoned during Stalin's purges but survived 16 years in the gulags. Most of Yerofeyev's childhood was spent in Kirovsk, Murmansk Oblast. He managed to enter the philology department of the Moscow State University but was expelled from the University after a year and a half because he did not attend compulsory military training. Later he studied in several more institutes in different towns, including Kolomna and Vladimir, but he never managed to graduate from any, usually being expelled due to his "amoral behaviour". Between 1958 and 1975, Yerofeyev lived without propiska in various towns in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and Lithuania, also spending some time in Uzbekistan and Tadjikistan, doing different low-level and underpaid jobs; for a time he lived and worked in the Muromtsev Dacha in Moscow. He started writing at the age of 17; in the 1960s he unsuccessfully submitted several articles on Ibsen and Hamsun to literary magazines.
Yerofeyev is best known for his 1969 "poem in prose" (ironical assignment of the genre) Moscow-Petushki (several English translations exist, including Moscow to the End of the Line and Moscow Stations). It is an account of a journey from Moscow to Petushki (Vladimir Oblast) by electric train, one of many futile attempts to visit his small son: each time such a journey becomes soaked in alcohol and fails. During the trip, the hero becomes involved in philosophical discussions about drinking, recounts some of the fantastic escapades he participated in, including declaring war on Norway, charting the drinking statistics of his colleagues when leader of a cable-laying crew, and obsessing about the woman he loves.
Referred to by David Remnick as "the comic high-water mark of the Brezhnev era", the poem was published for the first time in 1973 in Jerusalem. It was not published in the Soviet Union until 1989.
Of note is his smaller 1988 work, My Little Leniniana (Моя маленькая лениниана, Moya malenkaya Leniniana), which is a collection of quotations from Lenin's works and letters, which shows the unpleasant parts of the character of the "leader of the proletariat". Alexander Bondarev tells the story of its origin.
Yerofeyev also claimed to have written in 1972 a novel Shostakovich about the famous Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich, but the manuscript was allegedly stolen in a train. The novel has never been found. Before his death of throat cancer Yerofeyev finished a play called Walpurgisnacht, or the Steps of the Commander ("Вальпургиева ночь или Шаги командора") and was working on another play about Fanny Kaplan.
- "Khibiny-Moscow-Petushki. Vevedikt Terofeyev (1938-1990)", a special issue of Live Arctics ("Живая Арктика") No.1, 2005
- "Susan Orlean, David Remnick, Ethan Hawke, and Others Pick Their Favorite Obscure Books". Village Voice. 2008-12-02.
- Alexander Bondarev,"И немедленно выпил", Booknik, 24 октября 2013
- Москва—Петушки, Russian website dedicated to the work of Venedikt Yerofeyev
- Documentary on Venedikt Yerofeyev by Pawel Pawlikowski