History and Literature
Publication Year: 2003
Published by: Northwestern University Press
Title Page, Copyright
I thank all the parties enlisted in realizing this volume: its assiduous and patient contributors; its meticulous anonymous readers for Northwestern University Press; Caryl Emerson as the Studies in Russian Literature and Theory series editor; Susan Harris as NUP editor extraordinaire; Mark Sidell as on-site technical support; and, of course, former graduate students ...
A good question prompted this volume. As my graduate students were perusing a list of required primary texts for their comprehensive examinations in Russian literature, they asked, quite sensibly, about the inclusion of certain memoirs. At the time I mumbled something about the arbitrary nature of canonization and resorted to a vague justification I later found repeated in various literary histories: that some memoirs qualify as superb ...
Part I: The Memoir and the World
Lidiia Ginzburg: Images of the Intelligentsia
LIDIIA IAKOVLEVNA GINZBURG, recognized today as one of the most prominent scholars, distinguished writers, and reliable witnesses of the Leningrad intelligentsia, is best known outside Russia for her theoretical writings and scholarly studies of nineteenth- and twentieth-century narrative prose and lyric poetry.1 From the very beginning of her career, however, Ginzburg chose to identify herself broadly as a “litterateur” or “literary ...
The Stuffed Shirt Unstuffed: Zabolotsky’s “Early Years” and the Complexity of Soviet Culture
THE FIGURE OF Nikolai Zabolotsky generally comes down to us as a “Soviet poet.”1 This term carries several implications. It means that Zabolotsky lived primarily during the Soviet period. It means that we perceive him primarily as the author of works acceptable to the Soviet regime. In addition, because Zabolotsky began his career as a member ...
The Italics Are Hers: Matrophobia and the Family Romance in Elena Bonner’s
Few cultures have extolled the sanctity of motherhood as doggedly and vociferously as Soviet Russia. Those hosannas, however, have been thoroughly gendered, with specifically male impassioned glorification of maternity ranging from Maxim Gorky’s stirringly politicized quasi hagiography, Mother (Mat’, 1907), to numerous bathetic wartime poems, posters, and films troping nationhood as Mother Russia ...
Accommodating Consumers’ Desires: El’dar Riazanov’s Memoirs in Soviet and Post-Soviet Russia
In post-Soviet Russia, memoirs have become best-selling entertainment. Geia Publishers issues a series of spy memoirs, Declassified Lives, among whose best-known authors is the sinister spy master Pavel Sudoplatov.1 In 1998 AST Feniks publisher launched a series of male celebrity biographies titled Man-Myth, featuring such diverse male icons as Russian poet Aleksandr Pushkin (Luk’ianov) and Elvis Presley (Whitmer), Russian actor and ...
Part II: The Memoir and the Word
The Canonization of Dolgorukaia
AT AGE FIFTY-THREE Natal’ia Borisovna Dolgorukaia (1714–71) was persuaded by her son to write her memoirs. Born a Sheremeteva, she was part of the most privileged Moscow aristocracy and after a happy childhood she was betrothed to Ivan Dolgorukii, favorite of Peter II, in 1729. She married Ivan even though the large Dolgorukii family was rapidly falling from favor. They were finally exiled after Peter’s sudden ...
Art and Prostokvasha: Avdot’ia Panaeva’s Work
IN THE AGE OF Russian realism, writers and critics together welcomed the real-world material—the nationally or regionally specific characters, settings, speech, and artifacts—that memoirs inventoried for literary use. Realist fiction aspired to the memoir’s authenticity and particularity, and to that end often imported its thematic foci and representative strategies. Yet the same critics who cheered this seemingly ...
The Art of Memory: Cultural Reverence as Political Critique in Evgeniia Ginzburg’s Writing of the Gulag
AS SOVIET SOCIETY AWOKE in fits and starts from the Stalinist nightmare, one of the more significant developments in mobilizing collective memory was the emergence of a body of testimonial writing that addressed the high crimes committed by the Soviet state against its citizens in the decades following the October Revolution. While many Gulag survivors (and their families) wrote primarily to record the destruction inflicted ...
English as Sanctuary: Nabokov’s and Brodsky’s Autobiographical Writings
“A WRITER’S BIOGRAPHY is in his twists of language,” Joseph Brodsky wrote in “Less than One,” the first essay in the volume by the same title (Brodsky 1986, 3). By that he meant, most likely, that there is no real need for a writer’s biography since it already exists in that writer’s very language which, twisting along the same paths as the artist’s life, reflects and records the most vital developments of his or her being. ...
The Tale of Bygone Years: Reconstructing the Past in the Contemporary Russian Memoir
“IN THE LAST FEW YEARS memoir has become one of the most popular literary genres,” state the editors of the journal Voprosy Literatury (Literary Issues) in their January 1999 roundtable discussion titled Memoirs on the Cusp of the Epoch.1 Acknowledging the fact that more and more literary figures take the opportunity to “write directly of themselves and their times,” the editors posed the following question to ...