Shklovsky: Witness to an Era is a blend of riotous anecdote, personal history, andliterary reflection, collecting interviews with Viktor Shklovsky conducted byscholar Serena Vitale in the '70s, toward the end of the great critic's life, and inthe face of interference and even veiled threats of violence from the Soviet government.Bearing witness to a vanished age whose promiseended in despair, Shklovsky is in great form throughout, summing up a centuryof triumphs and disappointments, personal and historical.
In December 1978, Russian literature scholar Vitale (Pushkin's Button) ventured to Moscow to interview Viktor Shklovsky (Energy of Delusion), the renowned writer, literary critic, and influential cofounder of Russian formalism. The engaging result is a rambling, fascinating journey through Shklovsky's life and the history and art of the 20th century, punctuated by his discussions of everything from Tolstoy to television. Their wide-ranging conversations cover topics including the nature of art, poetry, the beginnings of Russian cinema, his St. Petersburg childhood, the formalist school, as well as his memories of key friends and colleagues. Anyone not steeped in the Russian avant-garde may want to brush up on the period and personalities; the text assumes a familiarity with Russian literature, history, and figures. Though Vitale provides a brief list of names at the back, more extensive, integrated annotation would make this multifaceted dialogue more attractive to a broader audience. Vitale's new forward to the interviews, written in 2010, provides not only more off-the-record Shklovsky stories, but a darkly farcical picture of the bureaucracy of Soviet Russia, as she is followed and even physically assaulted by the KGB while pursuing her meetings with Shklovsky. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
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W.W.Norton & Company
November 06, 2012
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