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Nikolai Klyuev

Time and Text, Place and Poet

Makin, Michael

Publication Year: 2010

Nikolai Klyuev: Time and Text, Place and Poet is the first book in English to examine this enigmatic poet's life and work. Klyuev (1884 1937) is an important but not well understood figure in twentieth century Russian poetry. The allusions in his work to folklore, mysticism, politics, and religion, in addition to occasionally arcane vocabulary and difficult syntax, require extensive elucidation. Klyuev rose to prominence in the early twentieth century as the first of the so called "new peasant poets" before being arrested and exiled in 1933, then shot in 1937: a victim of Stalinist hostility to both his cultural ideology and his homosexuality. Makin’s feat is particularly notable because Klyuev was often elusive in his own accounts of his life; a major element of this book is an effort to clarify the poet’s strategies of self mythologization. Nikolai Klyuev: Time and Text, Place and Poet is an insightful guide to both the life and the work of an important poet still relatively unknown to a Western audience.

Published by: Northwestern University Press

Series: Studies in Russian Literature and Theory


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pp. vii

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pp. ix-xiii

I first became interested in Nikolai Klyuev while working on Marina Tsvetaeva. Searching for points of contrast and comparison for her folkloric poemy, I read Bazanov’s article on Klyuev’s narrative poem Pogorel’shchina, and then that work itself (both are discussed in the following pages). I was fascinated, at times mesmerized,...

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Note to the Reader

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pp. xv

Russian is transliterated in this book according to British Standard 2979:1958, without diacritical marks. I find this system, and not only for patriotic reasons, the most efficient at telling the Russophone reader what the Russian is, while giving the non-Russophone reader some chance of pronouncing the words. An exception is made for proper names familiar in an established form...

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pp. 3-8

Nikolai Klyuev (1884–1937) is a remarkable figure, in many ways unique in the history of Russian literature. Especially striking are the evident contradictions of his life and work: an autodidact of peasant background, he was also a full-fledged Russian modernist; a defender of archaic cultural values, he was also the author...

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1. Lives of the Poet: Klyuev’s Life, as Lived, Imagined, Re-created, and Disputed

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pp. 9-72

THERE ARE MANY WAY S to tell a life story, but the most satisfactory lives often begin or are begun with death. Death brings with it the need and the possibility to tell the story from the end to the beginning— funeral eulogies and obituaries provide ample evidence of that need, while scandalous biographies...

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2. Text, Time, and Place: What, When, Where, How, and Why in Klyuev’s Poetics

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pp. 73-154

THE CONTRADICTORY biographical narratives constructed by and around Klyuev find many analogues in his poetry. The material texts of his work have often been elusive—lost, or brought to light many years after composition—while conceptual fluidity, thematic instability, and stylistic rupture are also...

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3. Texts of Fraternity: Klyuev’s Early Collection Bratskie pesni, Transformation of the Lyric, Popular-Religious Motifs

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pp. 155-209

ALTHOUGH PRE- SOVIET and thereby exempt from the more acute ideological problems which beset the composition, recording, preservation, and distribution of Klyuev’s later works, the collection Bratskie pesni (Fraternal Songs) provides ample illustrations of textual instabilities— aesthetic, material,...

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4. Prose of Identity and the Identity of Prose :“Gagar’ya sud’bina”—Klyuev’s Prose, Questions of Genre, Problems of Autobiography

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pp. 210-230

MANY OF THE PROBLEMS of textuality, identity, and reception illuminated by an examination of the fraternal songs recur when Klyuev’s most extensive autobiography is explored. “Gagar’ya sud’bina” (“The Loon’s Fate”) was summarized in chapter 1, where it was also noted that it was extensively quoted long before it...

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5. Poetry of Destruction and the Destruction of Poetry: Klyuev’s Late Lyric Poetry and the “Razrukha” Cycle

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pp. 231-275

KLYUEV’ S LATE LYRIC POETRY not only addresses directly both the personal circumstances of the poet himself and the general circumstances of Russian society of the time, but is also very much shaped, and even mutilated, by those circumstances. Its reception, too, is determined by the situation in...

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6. Mother Song: Pesn’ o Velikoi Materi an dOther Poemy

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pp. 276-324

THE STORY OF Pesn’ o Velikoi Materi (Hymn of the Great Mother), by far the longest of Klyuev’s works, is remarkable: the poet worked on it for several years and seems to have considered it his most important project; it was long thought to have disappeared, along with the poet himself, after his Siberian exile,....

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pp. 325-328

KLYUEV WROTE his last poetry in the year of his death— 1937. But almost seventy years later, in 2006, a major late work (Kreml’) was published for the first time. It is often said that Russia is a country with an unpredictable past. The same can...


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pp. 329-357

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 359-371

Index of Works by Nikolai Klyuev

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pp. 373-385

Subject Index

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pp. 387-393

E-ISBN-13: 9780810164369
Print-ISBN-13: 9780810126572

Page Count: 416
Publication Year: 2010

Series Title: Studies in Russian Literature and Theory