Dallas, TX, July 25, 2023 – Mundus Artium Press announces the award of the 2023 Babel Prize for Literature to the multitalented writer, artist and cultural mentor Tatyana Apraksina, an important international proponent and cultivator of indisciplinary thought. The Babel Prize is awarded by Mundus Artium Press to writers who further literary communication across cultural and linguistic contexts.
A native of St. Petersburg, Russia, Apraksina has devoted her life and work to ideals of mediation within and across cultures and generations. Leveraging curiosity, equitability and careful autonomy to coordinate among a broad spectrum of perspectives, she has shown as much attentiveness to the creative and intellectual voices of the past and of her own mentors and cultural peers, as to those of young students and early career writers and thinkers.
Apraksina inclusively upholds and champions the authentic intellectual and spiritual traditions of her place of origin, balancing the classical and modern, the formal and informal, and the independent and communal. In reaching out with her vision to other parts of the world, she also fosters a deeper appreciation of the merits of foundational values of creativity and pedagogy for individual and societal renewal. The Babel Prize for Literature will be presented to Apraksina in a ceremony in St. Petersburg when current international circumstances make this appropriate.
Tatyana Apraksina’s multifaceted expressiveness has gradually opened doors for the publication of a range of works that articulate her aesthetic and ethical experience and creed. Those works include Lessons for ‘Orly, an unconventional philosophical treatise addressed to an art pupil, the repeatedly anthologized memoir pieces “A Face That Held No Riddles” and “Beyond the Requiem,” and many more works in prose and poetic forms. Her poem cycle California Psalms, written during her second creative residency in the United States and illustrated by the author, is a work at once regional and universal in its scope and resonance. Apraksina has approached St. Petersburg’s cultural crucible and the vastness of the wider world with the same standards of moral integrity. “Art has the strength to save,” she writes, “when it takes the artist’s heart as its beginning.”
Equally skilled in each of her symbiotic callings, Apraksina has also maintained mutually supportive relationships with a varied array of practitioners of the arts and sciences. These relationships inform her literary and artistic work, as well as her editorial oversight of an award-winning interdisciplinary magazine, Apraksin Blues, and her organization of related seminars, concerts and other cultural events.
Impressions from earlier stages of Apraksina’s endeavors helped to establish her writing’s and art’s direction for decades to come. In the Soviet Union, she emerged as the at-risk host of an underground salon where the country’s unsanctioned rock poetry gained its impetus. While balancing unorthodox graphic design for local movie theaters with spontaneous creativity in her own circles, she became “Sweet N,” the muse and confidant of the pioneering songwriter Mike Naumenko. After leaving regular employment in favor of an uncertain, marginal status of exclusive focus on her own creative pursuits, she quickly attracted notice with controversial drawings of her elegant city’s backstreets.
Soon after, she gained then-unprecedented access to classical music rehearsals by the Leningrad Philharmonic under its great conductor Yevgeny Mravinsky, as well as by the original members of the Borodin Quartet. Studying the legacy of the quintessential Soviet composer Dmitry Shostakovich and befriending the composer’s ostracized pupil Alexander Lokshin, she found herself creatively and humanly enriched, while also enduring a new level of friction with factions in the country’s cultural and political elite.
Apraksina’s initial outlining of her life philosophy of art and culture also marked the beginning of her thought’s sustained appearance in English, with groundbreaking perestroika-era exhibits of her paintings in the United States, in a tour sponsored by the Soros Foundation, accompanied by translated lectures. In the following years, she extended the lectures’ themes in more works of prose as well as poetry, putting into words the convictions that her artwork asserted with images.
The psychology of music, music’s relationship to visual art, the arts’ relationship to time, the struggle for human and historical accuracy against calumny and myth, the cross-pollination of the perspectives of science and faith, of knowledge and creative intuition, represent several of the central lines of inquiry in her work. Her writing is as diverse in style and genre as her visual art, while staying grounded in a core of vital gravity and love of unadulterated reality. In her poetry and essays, she is known for her outstanding sense of form and her combination of colorful language and precise rhetoric, mindful of delicate balances of personalities, ideas and needs.
With the help of many generous individuals and organizations, Apraksina has communicated her writing’s and art’s philosophical commitments to diverse audiences. She has delivered many lectures and readings and participated in many exhibits on both sides of the world. Her passionate spoken-word presentations of California Psalms, often declaimed from memory with her artwork as a backdrop, have formed a key medium for her work’s impact. Major Russian and American composers have also set her evocative writing to music.
As a matter of principle, Apraksina integrates her direct creativity with nurturing others’ paths, using her Apraksin Blues magazine to enable a bridging of Russian- and English-language linguistic and cultural spaces through advocacy for underrepresented authors and themes. Maintaining creative studios and editorial offices in St. Petersburg as well as in the San Francisco Bay Area and rural California, she also embraces domestic errands ranging from tending grape vines to building rock walls, practicing devotion to an unadorned, selfless and self-effacing mode of living in harmony with her belief in the underlying unity and dignity of human purpose.
The award of the Babel Prize for Literature to Tatyana Apraksina should highlight the lasting, redemptive pleasures of an introspective writing life rooted in serious, daring interdisciplinary practice and thought, as well as of a life open to others in gracious intellectual discourse and friendship, both respecting and transcending borders. Such priorities bring us closer to the human race’s most precious inheritance, the perennial wisdom that all cultural activity should begin from and address. As sharers in what she has called the “soul’s homeland, where we are all equal and where the same values and needs affect all of us,” we should hear her message clearly and emphatically.