Krystyna Pomorska

  • Fifty Years of Russian Prose, Volume 1

    From Pasternak to Solzhenitsyn

    Krystyna Pomorska

    The writings in this anthology represent a highly personal and qualitative selection from both the “golden period” of Russian prose immediately following the 1917 revolution and the period from Stalin's death to the present – a time of “thaw,” protest, and a new revival of art.

    A number of the stories have been published previously, but about half are original translations. They vary in length from five to over a hundred pages. Each volume in the anthology contains an introductory essay by Krystyna Pomorska and brief biographical sketches of the authors.

    Volume 1 presents fifteen stories by writers from a variety of schools who have marked differences in belief yet who share an unconventional approach to verbal materials. Most of these pieces were written during the 1920s, a period in which Russian prose style revealed the influence of experimental poetry and the cinema of such innovators as Eisenstein, Dovzhenko, and Dziga Vertov.

    Social and political realities of the time are foreshadowed in a variety of styles, ranging from romanticism to swift ellipses, or montage. As Krystyna Pomorska points out, by the late 1920s Russian literature still felt the impact of the two major movements, Symbolism and Futurism, which, despite their many differences, together revived the idea of pure literary values, “whether those of Symbolist aestheticism or those of strict Futurist craftsmanship.”

    The book opens with two of Pasternak's early works that are closely related in content and style to his poetry – mainly by metonymic principle, which links Pasternak with the experimental art of his time and which forms the basis for the construction of his late novel Doctor Zhivago. Stories by Boris Pilnyak and by Alexander Tarasov-Rodyonov focus on the impact of totalitarian ideology on the individual. In “The Cave,” Evgeny Zamyatin unfolds a tale in which civil warfare forces the people to a desperate existence on the periphery of life.

    The book closes with a piece by Victor Nekrasov, a writer of the new era. Senka is derived from his own experience in the corps of engineers during World War II and marks the beginning of pacifist and “anti-heroic” themes that later appear in the Soviet film The Ballad of a Soldier and in both poetry and prose by Bulat Okudzhava, included in the second volume of this anthology.

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  • Fifty Years of Russian Prose, Volume 2

    From Pasternak to Solzhenitsyn

    Krystyna Pomorska

    A number of intellectual and literary events in Russia after 1953 led to a break in the code of Socialist Realism. Several courageous writers invoked sharp debate and attack by defending the individual's right to freely display his creative abilities in works that contained fundamental political and moral realities, couched in the unpredictable plot and the not-so-happy ending.

    Volume 2 of this anthology brings together stories by Russian writers of this new period. The pieces by Yashin, Nagibin, and Zhdanov have been taken from Literary Moscow, an almanac whose role in the revival of Russian literature is comparable to that of Ehrenburg's important novel, The Thaw. Singer and poet, Bulat Okudzhava is one of the best and most original representatives of the antiwar literature that developed after Stalin's death. His poetry and prose display strong thematic and lyrical ties and are developed to unmasking the false images of war – its real and inglorious impact on people's lives. In addition to the proliferation of literature on social, political, and moral themes, a number of stories center on the world of children. Two fine examples are Seryozha by Vera Panova, and “The Fourth Daddy,” by Yury Nagibin.

    Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Nobel laureate and author of the recent novels Cancer Ward and The First Circle, is perhaps the best known and most commanding figure among modern Soviet writers. He is represented in this book by three compelling stories set in provincial Russia. “Matryona's Home” describes the simple righteous existence of a peasant women in a small village, while “An Incident at Krechetovka Station” explores the complex character of a devoted Communist soldier. In the last story, “For the Good of the Cause,” enthusiastic students of a technical school clash with Party bureaucrats, bringing to the surface petty ambitions and deceits that prevail despite changes in regime. These short stories as well as his novels link Solzhenitsyn to the tradition of great Russian classical prose, whose anecdotes are Tolstoy and Dostoevsky.

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  • Rabelais and His World

    Mikhail Bakhtin

    François Rabelais essentially determined the fate of French literature, the French literary tongue, and, no less than Cervantes, the fate of world literature; yet; asserts Bakhtin, he has been the least understood, most enigmatic and isolated of the great Renaissance writers. To overcome this failure, Bakhtin removes Rabelais from within the framework of official culture—the mainstream of great French literature—and reviews his work as a continuation and consummation of a rich and varied history of folk humor. From this source Rabelais drew his system of images and derived his unique charm. In all stages of its development this folk culture opposed that of the ruling classes, created its own world and potent idiom. Bakhtin's encyclopedia study offers a fresh approach to Rabelais, particularly as the author renounces certain literary tastes and concepts, reconstructs artistic and ideological perceptions of Rabelais' writing. For Rabelais was an innovator of radical proportions; his images did not conform to any sixteenth-century norm or canon and were “opposed to all that is finished and polished, to all pomposity, to every ready-made solution....”

    The author introduces Rabelais by means of the oral tradition of popular-festive laughter. Laughter, says Bakhtin “celebrates its masses, professes its faith, celebrates marriages and funerals, writes its epitaphs, elects kings and bishops.” Thus saturnalia, carnival, clowns and fools imposed their own protocol and ritual upon the marketplace. Rabelaisian laughter, the author points out, is rooted in ancient ritual and spectacle. Rabelais so clearly reveals the peculiar and difficult language of the people of the marketplace that he illuminates the culture of folk humor in all ages.

    The grotesque, excessive, and often repulsive images of the human body that dominate Gargantua and Pantagruel Bakhtin understands as deeply positive reflections of the “material bodily principle” in which death is viewed as a concomitant of birth or regeneration. Bakhtin remarks shrewdly on the deeper content of the banquet images in Rabelais—that a meal shared in company cannot be melancholy since it symbolizes, by the taking in of dead matter, victory over death and the material world; thus funeral feasting is by no means incongruous. Bakhtin makes similar observations on the nature of the grotesque and offers an amusing analysis of Rabelais' famous lists (list of swabs).

    Attending closely to Rabelais' language, Bakhtin points out that his exceptional linguistic freedom coincided with the Renaissance struggle at an intersection of many languages, idioms, jargons, and dialects. Much of Rabelais' language was taken from oral sources and entered the syntactical system of literature for the first time.

    Rabelais and His World is a deeply appreciative analysis of the little-known tradition of folk humor as it preserved the creative and various life of the people and was brought to fulfillment over a thousand years or so in Rabelais' work. Bakhtin's grasp of the difficult images and language of Rabelais' work in extraordinary, and his exhortation, and his exhortation to “hear the chorus of laughing people” in the culture of the Middle Ages and of the renaissance is brought to us in a carful and complete translation.

    • Hardcover $15.00
    • Paperback $35.00 £28.00