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During a time of extreme censorship in the Soviet Union, Sinyavsky published his novels in the West under a pseudonym. While the historical Abram Tertz was a Jewishgangster from Russia's past, Sinyavsky himself was not Jewish; his father, Donat Sinyavsky, was a Russian nobleman from Syzran, who turned Social Revolutionary and was arrested (after the revolution) several times as an "enemy of the people". During his last stay in jail, Donat Sinyavsky became ill and after his release, developed mental illness. Andrei Sinyavsky described his father's experiences in the novel Goodnight!. Sinyavsky's mother was of a Russian peasant background.
A protégé of Boris Pasternak, Sinyavsky described the realities of Soviet life in short fiction stories. In 1965, he was arrested, along with fellow-writer and friend Yuli Daniel, and tried in the infamous Sinyavsky-Daniel show trial. On 14 February 1966, Sinyavsky was sentenced to seven years on charges of "anti-Soviet activity" for the opinions of his fictional characters.
The affair was accompanied by harsh propaganda campaigns in the Soviet media and was perceived as a sign of demise of the Khrushchev Thaw.
As historian Fred Coleman writes, "Historians now have no difficulty pinpointing the birth of the modern Soviet dissident movement. It began in February 1966 with the trial of Andrei Sinyavsky and Yuli Daniel, two Russian writers who ridiculed the Communist regime in satires smuggled abroad and published under pen names... Little did they realize at the time that they were starting a movement that would help end Communist rule."
Andrei Sinyavsky's grave (Cimetière communal de Fontenay-aux-Roses, Rue des Pierrelais 18)
Sinyavsky was the catalyst for the formation of the Russian-English translation team of Larissa Volokhonsky and Richard Pevear, who have translated a number of works by Mikhail Bulgakov, Anton Chekhov, Fyodor Dostoyevski, Nikolai Gogol, and Leo Tolstoy. Volokhonsky, who was born and raised in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg), first visited the United States in the early 1970s and happened across Pevear's Hudson Review article about Sinyavsky. At the time, Pevear believed Sinyavsky was still in a Russian prison; Volokhonsky had just helped him immigrate to Paris. Pevear was surprised and pleased to be mistaken:
"Larissa had just helped Sinyavsky leave Russia," Pevear recalled. "And she let me know that, while I'd said he was still in prison, he was actually in Paris. I was glad to know it."
On Socialist Realism (1959) criticised the poor quality of the drearily positive-toned, conflict-free strictures in the style of the state-backed socialist realism, and called for a return to the fantastic in Soviet literature, the tradition, Sinyavsky said, of Gogol and Vladimir Mayakovsky. This work also drew connections between socialist realism and classicism. It asserted that greater similarities exist between Soviet literature and that predating the 19th century than exist between Soviet (socialist realist) literature and the intellectual skepticism plaguing the protagonists of 19th-century Russian novels.
The Trial Begins (1960) is a short novel with characters reacting in different ways to their roles in a totalitarian society, told with elements of the fantastic.
A Voice from the Chorus (1973) is a collection of scattered thoughts from the Gulag, composed in letters he wrote to his wife. It contains snippets of literary thoughts as well as the comments and conversations of fellow prisoners, most of them criminals or even German war prisoners.
" ? ? "? ": ? ? ?" [Andrei Sinyavsky's correspondence to the editors of "Poet's Library" series: the change of the Soviet literary field]. (in Russian) (71). 2005.
Artz, Martine (15 May 1995). "Literature in the dock: the trial against Andrej Sinjavskij". Russian Literature. 37 (4): 441-450. doi:10.1016/0304-3479(95)91600-T.
Borden, Richard (Autumn 1998). "Andrei Sinyavsky: in memoriam". The Slavic and East European Journal. 42 (3): 372-376. JSTOR309673.
Chapple, Richard (February 1976). "Criminals and criminality according to the Soviet dissidents-works of Andrey Sinyavsky and Yuly Daniel". In Fox, Vernon. Proceedings of the 21st annual Southern conference on corrections. 21. Tallahassee: Florida State University. pp. 149-158.