This book brings together works by two of the outstanding talents of Soviet literature, Daniil Kharms and Alexander Vvedensky. It discloses a little-known tradition of absurdism that persisted during the Stalinist period, a testimony to both the hardiness of the Russian imagination in the face of socialist realism and the vitality of an important cultural and literary tradition.
Vladimir Nabokov complained about the number of Dostoevsky's characters "sinning their way to Jesus." In truth, Christ is an elusive figure not only in Dostoevsky's novels, but in Russian literature as a whole. The rise of the historical critical method of biblical criticism in the nineteenth century and the growth of secularism it stimulated made an earnest affirmation of Jesus in literature highly problematic. If they affirmed Jesus too directly, writers paradoxically risked diminishing him, either by deploying faith explanations that no longer persuade in an age of skepticism or by reducing Christ to a mere argument in an ideological dispute. The writers at the heart of this study understood that to reimage Christ for their age, they had to make him known through indirect, even negative ways, lest what they say about him be mistaken for cliche, doctrine, or naïve apologetics. The Christology of Dostoevsky, Leo Tolstoy, Mikhail Bulgakov, and Boris Pasternak is thus apophatic because they deploy negative formulations (saying what God is not) in their writings about Jesus. Professions of atheism in Dostoevsky and Tolstoy's non-divine Jesus are but separate negative paths toward truer discernment of Christ. This first study in English of the image of Christ in Russian literature highlights the importance of apophaticism as a theological practice and a literary method in understanding the Russian Christ. It also emphasizes the importance of skepticism in Russian literary attitudes toward Jesus on the part of writers whose private crucibles of doubt produced some of the most provocative and enduring images of Christ in world literature. This important study will appeal to scholars and students of Orthodox Christianity and Russian literature, as well as educated general readers interested in religion and nineteenth-century Russian novels.
These bizarre and wildly imaginative pieces, written in Soviet Russia forty years ago, are as vital and disturbing as the best of today's absurdist literature. Almost none of the works of Daniil Kharms and Alexander Vvedensky have been published before in any language.
Recent decades have been decisive for Russia not only politically but culturally as well. The end of the Cold War has enabled Russia to take part in the global rise and crystallization of postmodernism. This volume investigates the manifestations of this crucial trend in Russian fiction, poetry, art, and spirituality, demonstrating how Russian postmodernism is its own unique entity. It offers a point of departure and valuable guide to an area of contemporary literary-cultural studies insufficiently represented in English-language scholarship. This second edition includes additional essays on the topic and a new introduction examining the most recent developments.
The Sad and Absurd Story of Birobidzhan, Russia's Jewish Autonomous Region
Author: Masha Gessen
From the acclaimed author of The Man Without a Face, the previously untold story of the Jews in twentieth-century Russia that reveals the complex, strange, and heart-wrenching truth behind the familiar narrative that begins with pogroms and ends with emigration. In 1929, the Soviet government set aside a sparsely populated area in the Soviet Far East for settlement by Jews. The place was called Birobidzhan.The idea of an autonomous Jewish region was championed by Jewish Communists, Yiddishists, and intellectuals, who envisioned a haven of post-oppression Jewish culture. By the mid-1930s tens of thousands of Soviet Jews, as well as about a thousand Jews from abroad, had moved there. The state-building ended quickly, in the late 1930s, with arrests and purges instigated by Stalin. But after the Second World War, Birobidzhan received another influx of Jews—those who had been dispossessed by the war. In the late 1940s a second wave of arrests and imprisonments swept through the area, traumatizing Birobidzhan’s Jews into silence and effectively shutting down most of the Jewish cultural enterprises that had been created. Where the Jews Aren’t is a haunting account of the dream of Birobidzhan—and how it became the cracked and crooked mirror in which we can see the true story of the Jews in twentieth-century Russia. (Part of the Jewish Encounters series)