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Prodigal Son

Vasilii Shuksin in Soviet Russian Culture

Givens, John

Publication Year: 2000

Published by: Northwestern University Press

Series: Studies in Russian Literature and Theory

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pp. ix-xiv

When reading Vasilii Shukshin, you are first struck by the liveliness of his language and the dynamic subjects of his stories. His frequently humorous, even boisterous tales of Siberian peasants at home in the village or newly arrived in the big city are colorful, compact, and surprisingly unlike much of what was written during the Brezhnev period. ...


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pp. xv-xvii

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A Note on Sources

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pp. xix

All references to Shukshin’s fictional works—stories, novellas, scripts, and novels—are cited parenthetically in the text by volume number and page from the definitive “Literaturnoe nasledie” edition of his collected works: Vasilii Shukshin, Sobranie sochinenii, 5 vols., compiled and with commentary by Lev Anninskii, Galina Kostrova, and Lidiia Fedoseeva-Shukshina...

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pp. 1-10

WHEN ASKED WHY a writer should aspire to be an actor and director as well, Vasilii Shukshin responded in a way that captures the power and allure of the cinema for any artist. “Tell me,” he said,...

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Chapter One: The Shukshin Legend

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pp. 11-28

Vasilii Shukshin’s legacy in Russia is a paradoxical one, as befits those whose fate is explained in terms of legends. On the one hand, his appearance has been hailed as “one of the most significant events in the literary life of the 1960s”; he has been credited with “unexpectedly resurrecting the Chekhov tradition” of the short story in Russian literature;...

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Chapter Two: The Actor and the Writer

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pp. 29-43

ONE OF THE FASCINATING ASPECTS about Shukshin’s aesthetic is that it managed to unite so successfully elements of the oral folk culture of his childhood village with the art of the cinema. Indeed, as we have seen, even the notion of an artist...

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Chapter Three: Shukshin’s Bright Souls

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pp. 44-56

VASILII SHUKSHIN ENTERED Russian culture as the creator—in word and film—of a character type who went by many names: takoi paren’ (this guy), chudik (oddball), khmyr’ (crank), debil (retard), upornyi (stubborn), psikhopat (psychopath), suraz (bastard), zaletnyie (transient), shizia (schizo), priezzhii (new arrival), kharakter (type). ...

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Chapter Four: Unforgettably Strange People

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pp. 57-86

One feature of Shukshin’s characters that fascinated Soviet audiences was his heroes’ propensity for acting on their impulses. As Geoffrey Hosking notes, “This is the stuff of Shukshin’s human comedy: human feelings thrashing about, spilling out in all sorts of inappropriate, ridiculous and hurtful ways.”1 A few examples from his stories will illustrate. ...

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Chapter Five: Grotesque Characters

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pp. 87-111

THE TITLE OF SHUKSHIN’S 1973 collection of short stories, his fourth and the last to be published during his lifetime, underscores an important feature of the mature writer’s presentation of his hero. Kharaktery (characters, types) marks, in name and content, the writer’s more demonstrative turn to typification...

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Chapter Six: The Author and His Critics

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pp. 112-135

BEGINNING WITH VISSARION BELINSKII in the nineteenth century, literary critics have long made Russian literature a distinctly extraliterary phenomenon. As in tsarist times, so in the Soviet period, they have acted as social (and socialist) commentators and watchdogs whose reactions to a writer’s work could play a major role in determining the shape of his or her career. ...

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Chapter Seven: Return of the Prodigal Son

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pp. 136-152

SHUKSHIN’S KALINA KRASNAIA ranks among the most sensational Soviet movies of the 1970s. Not only did the tragic and controversial story of recidivist-thief Egor Prokudin’s attempt to “go straight” and return to the rural home of his childhood draw over sixty million people to movie theaters...

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Chapter Eight: Telling His Own Story

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pp. 153-170

EGOR PROKUDIN from Kalina krasnaia and Vasilii Kniazev from “Oddball”—to choose two characters who could not be more different from each other—are alike in two important ways. Like their creator, they both navigate in various ways and with different consequences the hazardous distance between the village and the city. ...

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Chapter Nine: The Search for Freedom:

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pp. 171-190

FOR ALL OF HIS CREATIVE LIFE, Shukshin was haunted by the image of Stepan Razin. The subject of one of the writer’s earliest stories (“Sten’ka Razin,” written in 1960) and the tragic hero of a film script (1968) and a full-length novel (first published as a book shortly after Shukshin’s death in 1974), Razin frames in an important way the en- tirety of the writer’s career. ...

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Conclusion: The Shukshin Legend Revisited

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pp. 191-199

VASILII SHUKSHIN’S SUDDEN DEATH in 1974 at age forty-five was followed by an outcry of national grief. His funeral was a huge public event, attracting thousands of mourners. Within a month, some 160,000 letters poured in to television studios, the Committee for Cinematography, the editorial offices of newspapers and journals, and the writer’s apartment.1 ...


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pp. 201-249

Select Bibliography

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pp. 251-260


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pp. 261-262


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pp. 263-267

E-ISBN-13: 9780810121294
Print-ISBN-13: 9780810117709

Page Count: 268
Publication Year: 2000

Edition: 1
Series Title: Studies in Russian Literature and Theory