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Essays in Russian Literature and Culture
In this book, acclaimed Dostoevsky biographer Joseph Frank explores some of the most important aspects of nineteenth and twentieth century Russian culture, literature, and history. Delving into the distinctions of the Russian novel as well as the conflicts between the religious peasant world and the educated Russian elite, Between Religion and Rationality displays the cogent reflections of one of the most distinguished and versatile critics in the field.
Frank's essays provide a discriminating look at four of Dostoevsky's most famous novels, discuss the debate between J. M. Coetzee and Mario Vargas Llosa on the issue of Dostoevsky and evil, and confront Dostoevsky's anti-Semitism. The collection also examines such topics as Orlando Figes's sweeping survey of the history of Russian culture, the life of Pushkin, and Oblomov's influence on Samuel Beckett. Investigating the omnipresent religious theme that runs throughout Russian culture, even in the antireligious Chekhov, Frank argues that no other major European literature was as much preoccupied as the Russian with the tensions between religion and rationality. Between Religion and Rationality highlights this unique quality of Russian literature and culture, offering insights for general readers and experts alike.
Alexander Blok, Zinaida Gippius, and the Symbolist Sublimation of Sex
Gender and Sexuality in Modern Czech Culture
Empire, Tourism, Nostalgia
Expelled from the Soviet Union in 1972 and honored with the Nobel Prize fifteen years later, poet Joseph Brodsky in many ways fit the grand tradition of exiled writer. But Brodsky’s years of exile did not render him immobile: though he never returned to his beloved Leningrad, he was free to travel the world and write about it. In Brodsky Abroad, Sanna Turoma discusses Brodsky’s poems and essays about Mexico, Brazil, Turkey, and Venice. Challenging traditional conceptions behind Brodsky’s status as a leading émigré poet and major descendant of Russian and Euro-American modernism, she relocates the analysis of his travel texts in the diverse context of contemporary travel and its critique. Turoma views Brodsky’s travel writing as a response not only to his exile but also to the postmodern and postcolonial landscape that initially shaped the writing of these texts.
In his Latin American encounters, Brodsky exhibits disdain for third-world politics and invokes the elegiac genre to reject Mexico’s postcolonial reality and to ironically embrace the romanticism of an earlier Russian and European imperial age. In an essay on Istanbul he assumes Russia’s ambiguous position between East and West as his own to negotiate a distinct, and controversial, interpretation of Orientalism. And, Venice, the emblematic tourist city, becomes the site for a reinvention of his lyric self as more fluid, hybrid, and cosmopolitan.
Brodsky Abroad reveals the poet’s previously uncharted trajectory from alienated dissident to celebrated man of letters and offers new perspectives on the geopolitical, philosophical, and linguistic premises of his poetic imagination.
Alexander Pushkin’s lyric poetry—much of it known to Russians by heart—is the cornerstone of the Russian literary tradition, yet until now there has been no detailed commentary of it in any language.
Michael Wachtel’s book, designed for those who can read Russian comfortably but not natively, provides the historical, biographical, and cultural context needed to appreciate the work of Russia’s greatest poet. Each entry begins with a concise summary highlighting the key information about the poem’s origin, subtexts, and poetic form (meter, stanzaic structure, and rhyme scheme). In line-by-line fashion, Wachtel then elucidates aspects most likely to challenge non-native readers: archaic language, colloquialisms, and unusual diction or syntax. Where relevant, he addresses political, religious, and folkloric issues.
Pushkin’s verse has attracted generations of brilliant interpreters. The purpose of this commentary is not to offer a new interpretation, but to give sufficient linguistic and cultural contextualization to make informed interpretation possible.