Vladimir Volnovich, whose satires of Soviet life have a wide Western and Soviet readership despite an official ban here, has applied to emigrate from the Soviet Union, a move sure to be applauded by Soviet officials who bar his books but avidly read smuggled copies.
Voinovich, whose suppressed novel, "The Life and Extraordinary Adventures of Pvt. Ivan Chonkin," is well known in intellectual circles, thus joins a growing list of dissident writers seeking to leave their homeland in the face of increasing official pressure.
The 47-year-old author said he informed Soviet visa officials yesterday of his wish to depart in September to accept an invitation to lecture at a West German fine arts institution for a year.
Emigration authorities said he was free to leave whenever he wished, he said, but requested he be out of Moscow this summer. The Soviets are intent upon removing all known dissidents from the capital during the summer Olympics, when thousands of foreign tourists will be here.
Two other major Moscow literary figures, novelist Vasili Aksyonov and critic Lev Kopelev, have also said they wish to leave. Since the exile of Alexander Solzhenitsyn in 1974, these three writers have emerged as the best-known and most respected voices of dissent in the capital's literary circles.
Pressures against Aksyonov and Kopelev increased after they denounced the Jan. 22 arrest and banishment of human rights figure Andrei Sakharov. Kopelev was attacked by the official press and his wife, Raisa Orlova, and Aksyonov were expelled from all official literary organizations.
The small community of activist writers has been tense for months following a confrontation last year with Soviet publishing authorities over the fate of a collection of avant-garde works known as the "Metropol Almanac." The writers sought its publication without censorship. Soviet officials denounced Metropol as pornographic trash, and refused to accept two young participants into the Writers Union.
The long fight left Aksyonov and Kopelev worn and dispirited and seemed to end the hopes of many intelligentsia that the time for new experimentation might have arrived.
While not a direct particpant, Voinovich and others supported the effort behind the scenes. His own writings have been banned for many years, but "Chonkin," a tale of a Russian wise fool whose escapades succeed at the expense of party hacks, has been reprinted abroad in 15 languages, giving the author an international reputation.