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This report is taken from PN Review 179, Volume 34 Number 3, January - February 2008.

Natalya Gorbanevskaya Daniel Weissbort

Shortly before I was due to leave for Heathrow to return to my teaching job in Iowa, some time in the late 1960s, the phone rang. It was Jane Fonda, telling me she had read my book of and about Gorbanevskaya (Natalya Gorbanevskaya: Selected Poems with a Transcript of her Trial and Papers Relating to her Detention in a Prison Psychiatric Hospital, Carcanet, 1972) and that there was a project to make a film about the poet, with Ms Fonda herself playing the lead. I was astonished and didn't know what I should do with so little time at my disposal. I phoned my agent who said we must ask for an option and also ask whether I might have a hand in writing the script or be taken on as a consultant. Nothing further happened. Nothing remotely like it has happened since.

Yet it showed that Gorbanevskaya's treatment as a dissident in Soviet Russia had made an impact beyond Sovietological and even literary circles. Fonda might have been a good choice: she even looks a little like Natalya. What struck me, though, was how hard it would be to make a convincing script, though Gorbanevskaya's experiences as a dissident seemed to lend themselves to dramatic treatment. Gorbanevskaya was a member of a small group which actually self-published a journal, A Chronicle of Current Events (Khronika tekushchikh sobytii). This was not a list of entertainments but a detailed account of dissident ...


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