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The Many Lives of Khrushchev's Thaw

Experience and Memory in Moscow's Arbat

The Arbat neighborhood in central Moscow has long been home to many of Russia's most famous artists, writers, and scholars, as well as several of its leading cultural establishments. In an elegantly written and evocative portrait of a unique urban space at a time of transition, Stephen V. Bittner explores how the neighborhood changed during the period of ideological relaxation under Khrushchev that came to be known as the thaw.

The thaw is typically remembered as a golden age, a period of artistic rebirth and of relatively free expression after decades of Stalinist repression. By considering events at the Vakhtangov Theater, the Gnesin Music-Pedagogy Institute, the Union of Architects, and the Institute of World Literature, Bittner finds that the thaw was instead characterized by much confusion and contestation. As political strictures loosened after Stalin's death, cultural figures in the Arbat split-often along generational lines-over the parameters of reform and over the amount of freedom of expression now permitted.

De-Stalinization provoked great anxiety because its scope was often unclear. Particularly in debates about Khrushchev's urban-planning initiatives, which involved demolishing a part of the historical Arbat to build an ensemble of concrete-and-steel high rises, a conflict emerged over what aspects of the Russian past should be prized in memory: the late tsarist city, the utopian modernism of the early Soviet period, or the neoclassical and gothic structures of Stalinism. Bittner's book is a window onto the complex beginning of a process that is not yet complete: deciding what to jettison and what to retain from the pre-Soviet and Soviet pasts as a new Russia moves to the future.

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Mapping the Feminine

Russian Women and Cultural Difference

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Milosz and the Problem of Evil

Lukasz Tischner

While scholars have chronicled Czesław Miłosz’s engagement with religious belief, no previous book-length treatment has focused on his struggles with theodicy in both poetry and thought. Miłosz wrestled with the problem of believing in a just God given the powerful evidence to the contrary in the natural world as he observed it and in the horrors of World War II and its aftermath in Poland. Rather than attempt to survey Miłosz’s vast oeuvre, Łukasz Tischner focuses on several key works—The Land of Ulro, The World, The Issa Valley, A Treatise on Morals, A Treatise on Poetry, and From the Rising of the Sun—carefully tracing the development of Miłosz’s moral arguments, especially in relation to the key texts that influenced him, among them the Bible, the Gnostic writings, and the works of Blake, Hegel, Kierkegaard, and Scho­penhauer. The result is a book that examines Miłosz as both a thinker and an artist, shedding new light on all aspects of his oeuvre.

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The Modernist Masquerade

Stylizing Life, Literature, and Costumes in Russia

Colleen McQuillen

Masked and costume balls thrived in Russia in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries during a period of rich literary and theatrical experimentation. The first study of its kind, The Modernist Masquerade examines the cultural history of masquerades in Russia and their representations in influential literary works.

            The masquerade's widespread appearance as a literary motif in works by such writers as Anna Akhmatova, Leonid Andreev, Andrei Bely, Aleksandr Blok, and Fyodor Sologub mirrored its popularity as a leisure-time activity and illuminated its integral role in the Russian modernist creative consciousness. Colleen McQuillen charts how the political, cultural, and personal significance of lavish costumes and other forms of self-stylizing evolved in Russia over time. She shows how their representations in literature engaged in dialog with the diverse aesthetic trends of Decadence, Symbolism, and Futurism and with the era's artistic philosophies.

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Muslim Women of the Fergana Valley

A 19th-Century Ethnography from Central Asia

Translated by Mariana Markova and Marianne Kamp. Edited by Marianne Kamp. Vladimir Nalivkin and Maria Nalivkina

Muslim Women of the Fergana Valley is the first English translation of an important 19th-century Russian text describing everyday life in Uzbek communities. Vladimir and Maria Nalivkin were Russians who settled in a "Sart" village in 1878, in a territory newly conquered by the Russian Empire. During their six years in Nanay, Maria Nalivkina learned the local language, befriended her neighbors, and wrote observations about their lives from birth to death. Together, Maria and Vladimir published this account, which met with great acclaim from Russia’s Imperial Geographic Society and among Orientalists internationally. While they recognized that Islam shaped social attitudes, the Nalivkins never relied on common stereotypes about the "plight" of Muslim women. The Fergana Valley women of their ethnographic portrait emerge as lively, hard-working, clever, and able to navigate the cultural challenges of early Russian colonialism. Rich with social and cultural detail of a sort not available in other kinds of historical sources, this work offers rare insight into life in rural Central Asia and serves as an instructive example of the genre of ethnographic writing that was emerging at the time. Annotations by the translators and an editor's introduction by Marianne Kamp help contemporary readers understand the Nalivkins' work in context.

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My Life

Sofia Andreevna Tolstaya

One hundred years after his death, Leo Tolstoy continues to be regarded as one of the worlds most accomplished writers. Historically, little attention has been paid to his wife Sofia Andreevna Tolstaya. Acting in the capacity of literary assistant, translator, transcriber, and editor, she played an important role in the development of her husbands career. Her memoirs which she titled My Life lay dormant for almost a century. Now their first-time-ever appearance in Russia is complemented by an unabridged and annotated English translation.

Tolstayas story takes us from her childhood through the early years of her marriage, the writing of War and Peace and Anna Karenina and into the first year of the twentieth century. She paints an intimate and honest portrait of her husbands character, providing new details about his life to which she alone was privy. She offers a better understanding of Tolstoys character, his qualities and failings as a husband and a father, and forms a picture of the quintessential Tolstoyan character which underlies his fiction.

My Life also reveals that Tolstaya was an accomplished author in her own rightas well as a translator, amateur artist, musician, photographer, and businesswomana rarity in the largely male-dominated world of the time. She was actively involved in the relief efforts for the 189192 famine and the emigration of the Doukhobors in 1899. She was a prolific correspondent, in touch with many prominent figures in Russian and Western society. Guests in her home ranged from peasants to princes, from anarchists to artists, from composers to philosophers. Her descriptions of these personalities read as a chronicle of the times, affording a unique portrait of late-19th- and early-20th-century Russian society, ranging from peasants to the Tsar himself.

My Life is the most important primary document about Tolstoy to be published in many years and a unique and intimate portrait of one of the greatest literary minds of all time.

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Nabokov's Art of Memory and European Modernism

John Burt Foster Jr.

Despite Vladimir Nabokov's hostility toward literary labels, he clearly recognized his own place in cultural history. In a fresh approach stressing Nabokov's European context, John Foster shows how this writer's art of memory intersects with early twentieth-century modernism. Tracing his interests in temporal perspective and the mnemonic image, in intertextual "reminiscences," and in individuality amid cultural multiplicity, the book begins with such early Russian novels as Mary, then treats his emerging art of memory from Laughter in the Dark to The Gift. After discussing the author's cultural repositioning in his first English novels, Foster turns to Nabokov's masterpiece as an artist of memory, the autobiography Speak, Memory, and ends with an epilogue on Pale Fire.

As a cross-cultural overview of modernism, this book examines how Nabokov navigated among Proust and Bergson, Freud and Mann, and Joyce and Eliot. It also explores his response to Baudelaire and Nietzsche as theorists of modernity, and his sense of Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, and Pushkin as modernist precursors. As an approach to Nabokov, the book reflects the heightened importance of autobiography in current literary study. Other critical issues addressed include Bakhtin's theory of intertextuality, deconstructive views of memory, Benjamin's modernism of memory, and Nabokov's assumptions about modernism as a concept.

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Nabokov's Canon

From "Onegin" to "Ada"

Nabokov's translation of Pushkin's Eugene Onegin (1964) and its accompanying Commentary, along with Ada, or Ardor (1969), his densely allusive late English language novel, have appeared nearly inscrutable to many interpreters of his work. If not outright failures, they are often considered relatively unsuccessful curiosities. In Bozovic's insightful study, these key texts reveal Nabokov's ambitions to reimagine a canon of nineteenth- and twentieth-century Western masterpieces with Russian literature as a central, rather than marginal, strain. Nabokov's scholarly work, translations, and lectures on literature bear resemblance to New Critical canon reformations; however, Nabokov's canon is pointedly translingual and transnational and serves to legitimize his own literary practice. The new angles and theoretical framework offered by Nabokov's Canon help us to understand why Nabokov's provocative monuments remain powerful source texts for several generations of diverse international writers, as well as richly productive material for visual, cinematic, musical, and other artistic adaptations.

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Nabokov's Otherworld

Vladimir E. Alexandrov

A major reexamination of the novelist Vladimir Nabokov as "literary gamesman," this book systematically shows that behind his ironic manipulation of narrative and his puzzle-like treatment of detail there lies an aesthetic rooted in his intuition of a transcendent realm and in his consequent redefinition of "nature" and "artifice" as synonyms. Beginning with Nabokov's discursive writings, Vladimir Alexandrov finds his world view centered on the experience of epiphany--characterized by a sudden fusion of varied sensory data and memories, a feeling of timelessness, and an intuition of immortality--which grants the true artist intimations of an "otherworld." Readings of The Defense, Invitation to a Beheading, The Gift, The Real Life of Sebastian Knight, Lolita, and Pale Fire reveal the epiphanic experience to be a touchstone for the characters' metaphysical insightfulness, moral makeup, and aesthetic sensibility, and to be a structural model for how the narratives themselves are fashioned and for the nature of the reader's involvement with the text. In his conclusion, Alexandrov outlines several of Nabokov's possible intellectual and artistic debts to the brilliant and variegated culture that flourished in Russia on the eve of the Revolution. Nabokov emerges as less alienated from Russian culture than most of his emigre readers believed, and as less "modernist" than many of his Western readers still imagine. "Alexandrov's work is distinctive in that it applies an `otherworld' hypothesis as a consistent context to Nabokov's novels. The approach is obviously a fruitful one. Alexandrov is innovative in rooting Nabokov's ethics and aesthetics in the otherwordly and contributes greatly to Nabokov studies by examining certain key terms such as `commonsense,' `nature,' and `artifice.' In general Alexandrov's study leads to a much clearer understanding of Nabokov's metaphysics."--D. Barton Johnson, University of California, Santa Barbara

Originally published in 1991.

The Princeton Legacy Library uses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

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Nabokov Studies

Vol. 1 (1994) through current issue

Sponsored by the International Vladimir Nabokov Society, Nabokov Studies is a refereed journal publishing critical and theoretical articles and forums on one of the twentieth century's most important writers.

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