Mikhail Bakhtin

Although Bakhtin’s career was fraught with difficulties and complications, impeding the publication of many of his manuscripts until after his death, Bakhtin is considered to be a significant thinker of the twentieth century. As a philosopher Bakhtin was concerned with ethics and the act. As a philologist, he was concerned with language, arguing that a struggle between forces simultaneously working to separate and unite those things existing in both nature and culture was at the very center of existence. According to Bakhtin, examples of this struggle are best reflected in human language and best recorded in the novel, a subject to which Bakhtin devoted a significant amount of time.[4]

As a literary theorist, Bakhtin is associated with the Russian Formalists, and his work is often compared with that of Yuri Lotman; in 1963 Roman Jakobson mentioned him as one of the few intelligent critics of Formalism.[5] His career is frequently described as being broken into periods, but there is some discrepancy as to how those periods should be divided. During the 1920s, Bakhtin's work tended to focus on ethics and aesthetics in general. Early pieces such as Towards a Philosophy of the Act and Author and Hero in Aesthetic Activity are indebted to the philosophical trends of the time – particularly the Marburg School Neo-Kantianism of Hermann Cohen, including Ernst Cassirer, Max Scheler and, to a lesser extent, Nicolai Hartmann. Bakhtin began to be discovered by some scholars in 1963,[6] but it was only after his death in 1975 that authors such as Julia Kristeva and Tzvetan Todorov brought Bakhtin to the attention of the Francophone world, and from there his popularity in the United States, the United Kingdom, and many other countries continued to grow. In the late 1980s, Bakhtin's work experienced a surge of popularity in the West, and he continues today to be regarded as one of the most important theorists of literature and culture.

Bakhtin’s primary works include, Toward a Philosophy of the Act, an unfinished portion of a philosophical essay; Problems of Dostoyevsky’s Art, to which Bakhtin later added a chapter on the concept of carnival and published with the title Problems of Dostoyevsky’s Poetics; Rabelais and His World, which explores the openness of the Rabelaisian novel; The Dialogic Imagination, whereby the four essays that comprise the work introduce the concepts of dialogism, heteroglossia, and chronotope; and Speech Genres and Other Late Essays, a collection of essays in which Bakhtin concerns himself with method and culture.

In the 1920s there was a "Bakhtin school" in Russia, in line with the discourse analysis of Ferdinand de Saussure and Roman Jakobson.[7]

[edit] Biography
Bakhtin was born in Orel, Russia, outside of Moscow, to an old family of the nobility. His father was the manager of a bank and worked in several cities. For this reason Bakhtin spent his early childhood years in Orel, Vilnius (Lithuania) and then Odessa, where, in 1913, he allegedly joined the historical and philological faculty at the local university. He later transferred to Petersburg University to join his brother Nikolaj. It is here that Bakhtin was greatly influenced by the classicist F. F. Zelinskij whose works contain the beginnings of concepts elaborated by Bakhtin. Bakhtin completed his studies in 1918 and moved to a small city in western Russia, Nevel, Pskov Oblast, where he worked as a schoolteacher for two years. It was at this time that the first “Bakhtin Circle” formed. The group consisted of intellectuals with varying interests, but all shared a love for the discussion of literary, religious, and political topics. Included in this group were Valentin Volosinov and, eventually, P. N. Medvedev who joined the group later in Vitebsk. German philosophy was the topic talked about most frequently and, from this point forward, Bakhtin considered himself more a philosopher than a literary scholar. It is in Nevel, also, that Bakhtin worked tirelessly on a large work concerning moral philosophy that was never published in its entirety. However, in 1919, a short section of this work was published and given the title “Art and Responsibility”. This piece constitutes Bakhtin’s first published work. Bakhtin relocated to Vitebsk 1920. It was here, in 1921, that Bakhtin married Elena Aleksandrovna Okolovič. Later, in 1923, Bakhtin was diagnosed with osteomyelitis, a bone disease that ultimately led to the amputation of his leg in 1938. This illness hampered his productivity and rendered him an invalid.

In 1924, Bakhtin moved to Leningrad, where he assumed a position at the Historical Institute and provided consulting services for the State Publishing House. It is at this time that Bakhtin decided to share his work with the public, but just before “On the Question of the Methodology of Aesthetics in Written Works” was to be published, the journal in which it was to appear stopped publication. This work was eventually published fifty-one years later. The repression and misplacement of his manuscripts was something that would plague Bakhtin throughout his career. In 1929, Problems of Dostoevsky’s Art, Bakhtin’s first major work, was published. It is here that Bakhtin introduces the concept of dialogism. However, just as this revolutionary book was introduced, Bakhtin was accused of participating in the Russian Orthodox Church's underground movement. The truthfulness of this charge is not known, even today. Consequently, during one of the many purges of artists and intellectuals that Stalin conducted during the early years of his rule, Bakhtin was sentenced to exile in Siberia but appealed on the grounds that, in his weakened state, it would kill him. Instead, he was sentenced to six years of 'internal exile' in Kazakhstan.

Bakhtin spent these six years working as a book keeper in the town of Kustanaj, during which time Bakhtin wrote several important essays, including “Discourse in the Novel”. In 1936, he taught courses at the Mordovian Pedagogical Institute in Saransk. An obscure figure in a provincial college, he dropped out of view and taught only occasionally. In 1937, Bakhtin moved to Kimry, a town located a couple of hundred kilometers from Moscow. Here, Bakhtin completed work on a book concerning the eighteenth-century German novel which was subsequently accepted by the Sovetskij Pisatel’ Publishing House. However, the only copy of the manuscript disappeared during the upheaval caused by the German invasion.

After the amputation of his leg in 1938, Bakhtin’s health improved and he became more prolific. In 1940, and until the end of World War II, Bakhtin lived in Moscow, where he submitted a dissertation on Rabelais to the Gorky Institute of World Literature to obtain a postgraduate title;[8] a dissertation that could not be defended until the war ended. In 1946 and 1949, the defense of this dissertation divided the scholars of Moscow into two groups: those official opponents guiding the defense, who accepted the original and unorthodox manuscript, and those other professors who were against the manuscript’s acceptance. The book's earthy, anarchic topic was the cause of many arguments that ceased only when the government intervened. Ultimately, Bakhtin was denied a doctorate and granted a lesser degree by the State Accrediting Bureau. Later, Bakhtin was invited back to Saransk, where he took on the position of chair of the General Literature Department at the Mordovian Pedagogical Institute. When, in 1957, the Mordovian Pedagogical Institute made the transition from a teachers' college to a university, Bakhtin became head of the Department of Russian and World Literature. In 1961, Bakhtin’s deteriorating health forced him to retire, and in 1969, in search of medical attention, Bakhtin moved back to Moscow, where he lived until his death in 1975.[9]

Bakhtin’s works and ideas gained popularity after his death, and he endured difficult conditions for much of his professional life, a time in which information was dangerous and therefore often hidden. Therefore, the details provided now are often of uncertain inaccuracy. Also contributing to the imprecision of these details is the limited access to Russian archival information during Bakhtin’s life. It is only after the archives became public that scholars realized that much of what they thought they knew about the details of Bakhtin’s life was false or skewed largely by Bakhtin himself.[10]

[edit] Works and Ideas

[edit] Toward a Philosophy of the Act:
Toward a Philosophy of the Act was first published in Russia in 1986 with the title K filosofii postupka. The manuscript of this early work was found in bad condition with pages missing and sections of text that were illegible. It is for this reason that this philosophical essay appears today as a fragment of an unfinished work. Toward a Philosophy of the Act comprises only an introduction, of which the first few pages are missing, and part one of the full text. However, Bakhtin’s intentions for the work were not altogether lost, for he provided an outline in the introduction in which he stated that the essay was to contain four parts.[11] The first part of the essay deals with the analysis of the performed acts or deeds that comprise the actual world; “the world actually experienced, and not the merely thinkable world.” For the three subsequent and unfinished parts of Toward a Philosophy of the Act Bakhtin states the topics he intends to discuss. He outlines that the second part will deal with aesthetic activity and the ethics of artistic creation; the third with the ethics of politics; and the fourth with religion.[12]

Toward a Philosophy of the Act is one of Bakhtin’s early works concerning ethics and aesthetics and it is here that Bakhtin lays out three claims regarding the acknowledgment of the uniqueness of one’s participation in Being:

1. I both actively and passively participate in Being.
2. My uniqueness is given but it simultaneously exists only to the degree to which I actualize this uniqueness (in other words, it is in the performed act and deed that has yet to be achieved).
3. Because I am actual and irreplaceable I must actualize my uniqueness.
Bakhtin further states: “It is in relation to the whole actual unity that my unique ought arises from my unique place in Being”.[13] Bakhtin deals with the concept of morality whereby he attributes the predominating legalistic notion of morality to human moral action. According to Bakhtin, the I cannot maintain neutrality toward moral and ethical demands which manifest themselves as one’s voice of consciousness.[14]

It is here also that Bakhtin introduces an architectonic model of the human psyche which consists of three components: “I-for-myself”, “I-for-the-other”, and “other-for-me”. The I-for-myself is an unreliable source of identity, and Bakhtin argues that it is the I-for-the-other through which human beings develop a sense of identity because it serves as an amalgamation of the way in which others view me. Conversely, other-for-me describes the way in which others incorporate my perceptions of them into their own identities. Identity, as Bakhtin describes it here, does not belong merely to the individual, rather it is shared by all.[15]

[edit] Problems of Dostoyevsky’s Art: polyphony and unfinalizability
During his time in Leningrad, Bakhtin shifted his focus away from the philosophy characteristic of his early works and towards the notion of dialogue. It is at this time that he began his engagement with the work of Dostoevsky. Problems of Dostoyevsky’s Art is considered to be Bakhtin’s seminal work, and it is here that Bakhtin introduces three important concepts.

First, is the concept of the unfinalizable self: individual people cannot be finalized, completely understood, known, or labeled. Though it is possible to understand people and to treat them as if they are completely known, Bakhtin’s conception of unfinalizability respects the possibility that a person can change, and that a person is never fully revealed or fully known in the world. Readers may find that this conception reflects the idea of the soul; Bakhtin had strong roots in Christianity and in the Neo-Kantian school led by Hermann Cohen, both of which emphasized the importance of an individual's potentially infinite capability, worth, and the hidden soul.

Second, is the idea of the relationship between the self and others, or other groups. According to Bakhtin, every person is influenced by others in an inescapably intertwined way, and consequently no voice can be said to be isolated. In an interview, Bakhtin once explained that, "

In order to understand, it is immensely important for the person who understands to be located outside the object of his or her creative understanding—in time, in space, in culture. For one cannot even really see one's own exterior and comprehend it as a whole, and no mirrors or photographs can help; our real exterior can be seen and understood only by other people, because they are located outside us in space, and because they are others.

(New York Review of Books, June 10, 1993).

As such, Bakhtin's philosophy greatly respected the influences of others on the self, not merely in terms of how a person comes to be, but also in how a person thinks and how a person sees him- or herself truthfully.

Third, Bakhtin found in Dostoevsky's work a true representation of polyphony, that is, many voices. Each character in Dostoevsky's work represents a voice that represents an individual self, distinct from others. This idea of polyphony is related to the concepts of unfinalizability and self and other, since it is the unfinalizability of individuals that creates true polyphony.

Baktin also briefly outlined the polyphonic concept of truth. He criticized an assumption that if two people disagree, at least one of them must be in error. He challenged philosophers for whom plurality of minds is accidental and superfluous. For Bakhtin, truth is not a statement, a sentence or a phrase. Instead, truth is a number of mutually addressed albeit contradictory and logically inconsistent statements. Truth needs multitude of bearing voices. It cannot be held within a single mind, it also cannot be expressed with “a single mouth.” The polyphonic truth requires many simultaneous voices. Bakhtin does not mean to say that many voices carry partial truths that can simply complement each other. A number of different voices do not make the truth if simply “averaged”, or “synthesized.” It is the fact of mutual addressivity, of engagement, and of commitment to the context of a real-life event, that distinguishes truth from untruth.

When, in subsequent years, Problems of Dostoyevsky’s Art was to be translated into English and published in the West, Bakhtin added a chapter on the concept of carnival and the book was published with the slightly different title, Problems of Dostoyevsky’s Poetics. According to Bakhtin, carnival is the concept in which distinct individual voices are heard, flourish, and interact together. The carnival was Bakhtin's way of describing Dostoevsky's polyphonic style: each individual character is strongly defined, and at the same time the reader witnesses the critical influence of each character upon the other. That is, the voices of others are heard by each individual, and each inescapably shapes the character of the other.

[edit] Rabelais and His World: carnival and grotesque
During World War II Bakhtin submitted a dissertation on the French Renaissance writer François Rabelais which was not defended until some years later. The controversial ideas discussed within the work caused much disagreement, and it was consequently decided that Bakhtin be denied his doctorate. Thus, due to its content, Rabelais and Folk Culture of the Middle Ages and Renaissance was not published until 1965, at which time it was given the title, Rabelais and His World.[16]

Now a classic of Renaissance studies, Rabelais and His World is considered one of Bakhtin’s most important texts, and it is here that Bakhtin explores Rabelais’ Gargantua and Pantagruel.[17] Bakhtin declares that, for centuries, Rabelais’s book had been misunderstood, and claimed that Rabelais and His World clarified Rabelais’s intentions. In Rabelais and His World, Bakhtin concerns himself with the openness of Gargantua and Pantagruel; however, the book itself also serves as an example of such openness. Throughout the text, Bakhtin attempts two things: he seeks to recover sections of Gargantua and Pantagruel that, in the past, were either ignored or suppressed, and conducts an analysis of the Renaissance social system in order to discover the balance between language that was permitted and language that was not. It is by means of this analysis that Bakhtin pinpoints two important subtexts: the first is carnival (carnivalesque) which Bakhtin describes as a social institution, and the second is grotesque realism (grotesque body) which is defined as a literary mode. Thus, in Rabelais and His World Bakhtin studies the interaction between the social and the literary, as well as the meaning of the body.[18]

[edit] Carnival
For Bakhtin, carnival is associated with the collectivity. Those attending a carnival do not merely constitute a crowd; rather the people are seen as a whole, organized in a way that defies socioeconomic and political organization.[19] According to Bakhtin, “[A]ll were considered equal during carnival. Here, in the town square, a special form of free and familiar contact reigned among people who were usually divided by the barriers of caste, property, profession, and age”.[20] At carnival time, the unique sense of time and space causes individuals to feel they are a part of the collectivity, at which point they cease to be themselves. It is at this point that, through costume and mask, an individual exchanges bodies and is renewed. At the same time there arises a heightened awareness of one’s sensual, material, bodily unity and community.[21]

[edit] Grotesque
Bakhtin’s notion of carnival is connected with that of the grotesque. The collectivity partaking in the carnival is aware of its unity in time as well as its historic immortality, associated with its continual death and renewal. According to Bakhtin, the body is in need of a type of clock if it is to be aware of its timelessness. The grotesque is the term used by Bakhtin to describe the emphasis on bodily changes through eating, evacuation, and sex: it is used as a measuring device.[22]

[edit] History of Laughter
Bakhtin opens this work with a quotation from Alexander Herzen: "It would be extremely interesting to write the history of laughter".[23]

One of the primary expressions of the ancient world's conceptions of laughter are the apocryphal letters of Hippocrates about Democritus.[24] The laughter of Democritus had a philosophical character, being directed at the life of man and at all the vain fears and hopes related to the gods and to life after death. Democritus here made of his laughter a complete conception of the world, a certain spiritual premise of the man who has attained maturity and has awakened. Hippocrates finally perfectly agreed with him.[25]

[edit] The Dialogic Imagination: Chronotope, Heteroglossia
The Dialogic Imagination is a compilation of four essays concerning language and the novel: “Epic and Novel”, “From the Prehistory of Novelistic Discourse”, “Forms of Time and of the Chronotope in the Novel”, and “Discourse in the Novel”. In the nineteenth century the novel as a literary genre became increasingly popular, but for most of its history it has been an area of study often disregarded.

It is through the essays contained within The Dialogic Imagination that Bakhtin introduces the concepts of heteroglossia, dialogism and chronotope, making a significant contribution to the realm of literary scholarship.[26] Bakthin explains the generation of meaning through the "primacy of context over text" (heteroglossia), the hybrid nature of language (polyglossia) and the relation between utterances (intertextuality).[27] [28] Heteroglossia is "the base condition governing the operation of meaning in any utterance."[28][29] To make an utterance means to "appropriate the words of others and populate them with one's own intention".[30][28] Bakhtin's deep insights on dialogicality represent a substantive shift from views on the nature of language and knowledge by major thinkers as Saussure, Kant.[31][verification needed]

In “Epic and Novel”, Bakhtin demonstrates the novel’s distinct nature by contrasting it with the epic. By doing so, Bakhtin shows that the novel is well suited to the post-industrial civilization in which we live because it flourishes on diversity. It is this same diversity that the epic attempts to eliminate from the world. According to Bakhtin, the novel as a genre is unique in that it is able to embrace, ingest, and devour other genres while still maintaining its status as a novel. Other genres, however, cannot emulate the novel without damaging their own distinct identity.[32]

“From the Prehistory of Novelistic Discourse” is a less traditional essay in which Bakhtin reveals how various different texts from the past have ultimately come together to form the modern novel.[33]

“Forms of Time and of the Chronotope in the Novel” introduces Bakhtin’s concept of chronotope. This essay applies the concept in order to further demonstrate the distinctive quality of the novel.[33] The word “chronotope” literally means “time space” and, in the essay, Bakhtin defines it as “the intrinsic connectedness of temporal and spatial relationships that are artistically expressed in literature”.[34] For the purpose of his writing, an author must create entire worlds and, in doing so, is forced to make use of the organizing categories of the real world in which he lives. For this reason chronotope is a concept that engages reality.[35]

The final essay, “Discourse in the Novel”, is considered one of Bakhtin’s most complete statements concerning his philosophy of language. It is here that Bakhtin provides a model for a history of discourse and introduces the concept of heteroglossia.[33] The term heteroglossia refers to the qualities of a language that are extralinguistic, but common to all languages. These include qualities such as perspective, evaluation, and ideological positioning. In this way most languages are incapable of neutrality, for every word is inextricably bound to the context in which it exists.[36]

[edit] Speech Genres and Other Late Essays
In Speech Genres and Other Late Essays Bakhtin moves away from the novel and concerns himself with the problems of method and the nature of culture. There are six essays that comprise this compilation: “Response to a Question from the Novy Mir Editorial Staff”, “The Bildungsroman and Its Significance in the History of Realism”, “The Problem of Speech Genres”, “The Problem of the Text in Linguistics, Philology, and the Human Sciences: An Experiment in Philosophical Analysis”, “From Notes Made in 1970-71”, and “Toward a Methodology for the Human Sciences”.

“Response to a Question from the Novy Mir Editorial Staff” is a transcript of comments made by Bakhtin to a reporter from a monthly journal called Novy Mir that was widely read by Soviet intellectuals. The transcript expresses Bakhtin’s opinion of literary scholarship whereby he highlights some of its shortcomings and makes suggestions for improvement (Holquist xi).

“The Bildungsroman and Its Significance in the History of Realism” is a fragment from one of Bakhtin’s lost books. The publishing house to which Bakhtin had submitted the full manuscript was blown up during the German invasion and Bakhtin was in possession of only the prospectus. However, due to a shortage of paper, Bakhtin began using this remaining section to roll cigarettes. It is for this reason that only a portion of the opening section remains. This remaining section deals primarily with Goethe (Holquist xiii).

“The Problem of Speech Genres” deals with the difference between Saussurean linguistics and language as a living dialogue (translinguistics). In a relatively short space, this essay takes up a topic about which Bakhtin had planned to write a book, making the essay a rather dense and complex read. It is here that Bakhtin distinguishes between literary and everyday language. According to Bakhtin, genres exist not merely in language, but rather in communication. In dealing with genres, Bakhtin indicates that they have been studied only within the realm of rhetoric and literature, but each discipline draws largely on genres that exist outside both rhetoric and literature. These extraliterary genres have remained largely unexplored. Bakhtin makes the distinction between primary genres and secondary genres, whereby primary genres legislate those words, phrases, and expressions that are acceptable in everyday life, and secondary genres are characterized by various types of text such as legal, scientific, etc. (Holquist xv).

“The Problem of the Text in Linguistics, Philology, and the Human Sciences: An Experiment in Philosophical Analysis” is a compilation of the thoughts Bakhtin recorded in his notebooks. These notes focus mostly on the problems of the text, but various other sections of the paper discuss topics he has taken up elsewhere, such as speech genres, the status of the author, and the distinct nature of the human sciences. However, “The Problem of the Text” deals primarily with dialogue and the way in which a text relates to its context. Speakers, Bakhtin claims, shape an utterance according to three variables: the object of discourse, the immediate addressee, and a superaddressee. This is what Bakhtin describes as the tertiary nature of dialogue. (Holquist xvii-xviii).

“From Notes Made in 1970-71” appears also as a collection of fragments extracted from notebooks Bakhtin kept during the years of 1970 and 1971. It is here that Bakhtin discusses interpretation and its endless possibilities. According to Bakhtin, humans have a habit of making narrow interpretations, but such limited interpretations only serve to weaken the richness of the past (Holquist xix).

The final essay, “Toward a Methodology for the Human Sciences”, originates from notes Bakhtin wrote during the mid-seventies and is the last piece of writing Bakhtin produced before he died. In this essay he makes a distinction between dialectic and dialogics and comments on the difference between the text and the aesthetic object. It is here also, that Bakhtin differentiates himself from the Formalists, who, he felt, underestimated the importance of content while oversimplifying change, and the Structuralists, who too rigidly adhered to the concept of “code” (Holquist xx-xxi).

[edit] Disputed texts
Some of the works which bear the names of Bakhtin's close friends V. N. Vološinov and P. N. Medvedev have been attributed to Bakhtin – particularly The Formal Method in Literary Scholarship and Marxism and Philosophy of Language. These claims originated in the early 1970s and received their earliest full articulation in English in Clark and Holquist's 1984 biography of Bakhtin. In the years since then, however, most scholars have come to agree that Vološinov and Medvedev ought to be considered the true authors of these works. Although Bakhtin undoubtedly influenced these scholars and may even have had a hand in composing the works attributed to them, it now seems clear that if it was necessary to attribute authorship of these works to one person, Vološinov and Medvedev respectively should receive credit.

[edit] Influence
Throughout his lifetime Bakhtin made a significant contribution to the world of literary and rhetorical theory and criticism. He is known today for his interest in a wide variety of subjects, ideas, vocabularies, and periods, as well as his use of authorial disguises. As a result of the breadth of topics with which Bakhtin dealt, he was able to influence groups of theorists in the West including Neo-Marxists, Structuralists, and Semioticians. However, his influence on such groups has, somewhat paradoxically, resulted in narrowing the scope of Bakhtin’s work. Rarely do those who incorporate Bakhtin’s ideas into theories of their own appreciate his work in its entirety (Clark and Holquist 3).

While Bakhtin is traditionally seen as a literary critic, there can be no denying his impact on the realm of rhetorical theory. Among his many theories and ideas Bakhtin indicates that style is a developmental process, occurring both within the user of language and language itself. His work instills in the reader an awareness of tone and expression that arise from the careful formation of verbal phrasing. By means of his writing, Bakhtin has enriched the experience of verbal and written expression which ultimately aids the formal teaching of writing (Schuster 1-2). Some even suggest that Bakhtin introduces a new meaning to rhetoric because of his tendency to reject the separation of language and ideology (Klancher 24).

Bakhtin has been compared to Derrida and Michel Foucault. (Neo Kantianism in Cultural Theory. Bakhtin, Derrida and Foucault. Brandist, Craig. Radical philosophy, July 2000, n.120, p.6 [1] )

[edit] See also
Pavel Medvedev
Valentin Voloshinov
Russian Formalism
Nikolai Marr
Yuri Tsivian
Lev Vygotsky

[edit] Notes
^ Maranhão 1990, p.197
^ Clark and Holquist 3
^ Sheinberg 2000
^ Holquist xv-xviii
^ Holquist Dialogism, p.183
^ Holquist Dialogism, p.183
^ Peter Ludwig Berger Redeeming Laughter: The Comic Dimension of Human Experience (1997) p.86
^ Holquist Dialogism: Bakhtin and His World p.10
^ Holquist xxi-xxvi
^ Hirschkop 2
^ Liapunov xvii
^ Bakhtin 54
^ Bakhtin 41
^ Hirschkop 12-14
^ Emerson and Morson
^ Holquist xxv
^ Clark and Holquist 295
^ Clark and Holquist 297-299
^ Clark and Holquist 302
^ Bakhtin 10
^ Clark and Holquist 302
^ Clark and Holquist 303
^ chap.1, p. 59
^ p.66-67
^ p.66-67
^ Holquist xxvi
^ Maranhão 1990, p.4
^ a b c James V. Wertsch (1998) Mind As Action
^ Holquist and Emerson 1981, p. 428
^ Bakhtin
^ Holquist, 1990
^ Holquist xxxii
^ a b c Holquist 1981, p. xxxiii
^ Bakhtin 84
^ Clark and Holquist 278
^ Farmer xviii

Isaac Babel

Early years
Born to a Jewish family in Odessa during a period of social unrest and mass exodus of Jews from the Russian Empire, Isaac Babel survived the 1905 pogrom with the help of Christian neighbors who hid his family, but his grandfather Shoyl was one of about 300 Jews murdered.

To get to the preparatory class of the Nicolas I Odessa Commercial School, Babel had to overcome the quota for Jewish students (10% within the Pale of Settlement, 5% outside and 3% for both capitals), but despite the fact that he received the passing grades, the place was given to another boy, whose parents bribed the school officials. Schooled at home for a year, Babel went through the curriculum of two school years. In addition to regular school subjects, he studied the Talmud and music at home. Inspired by his teachers of French language and literature, young Babel revered Flaubert and Guy de Maupassant and his own first stories were written in French.

After an unsuccessful attempt to enroll at Odessa University (again due to the quota), Babel entered Kiev Institute of Finance and Business. There he met Yevgenia Gronfein, his future wife.

Early career
In 1915, Babel graduated and moved to Petrograd (now St. Petersburg), in defiance of laws restricting Jews to residence within the Pale. In the capital he met the famous Russian writer Maxim Gorky who published some of his stories in his literary magazine Letopis' ("Летопись", "Chronicle"). Gorky advised the aspiring writer to gain more life experience and later Babel wrote in his autobiography: "... I owe everything to that meeting and still pronounce Alexey Maksimovich (Gorky's) name with love and admiration." One of his most famous autobiographical short stories, "The Story of My Dovecot" ("История моей голубятни"), is dedicated to Gorky.

The story "The Bathroom Window" was considered obscene by censors and Babel was charged with violating criminal code article 1001.

In the next seven years, Babel fought on the Communist side in the Russian Civil War, worked in the Cheka as a translator for the counter-intelligence service, in the Odessa Gubkom (regional Bolshevik party committee), in the food requisitioning unit, in the Narkompros (Commissariat of Education), in a typographic printing office, and served as a newspaper reporter in Petersburg and Tiflis. He married Yevgenia Gronfein on August 9, 1919 in Odessa.

In 1920, during the bloody Russian Civil War, Babel was assigned as a journalist to Field Marshal Semyon Budyonny's 1st Cavalry Army, witnessing a military campaign of the Polish-Soviet War of 1920. He documented the horrors on the war he witnessed in the 1920 Diary (Konarmeyskiy Dnevnik 1920 Goda) which he later used to write the Red Cavalry (Конармия), a semi-documentary work of fiction.

Babel wrote: "Only by 1923 I have learned how to express my thoughts in a clear and not very lengthy way. Then I returned to writing." Several stories that were later included into Red Cavalry, were published in Vladimir Mayakovsky's famous LEF ("ЛЕФ") magazine in 1924. Babel's honest description of the brutal realities of war, far from revolutionary romanticism, brought him some powerful enemies, among them Budyonny, but Gorky's intervention helped to save the book, and soon it was translated into many languages.

Back in Odessa, Babel started to write a series of short stories set in the Odessan ghetto of Moldavanka where he was born, describing the life of the Jewish underworld before and after the 1917 October Revolution (many of them featuring the anti-hero Benya Krik). During this same period, Babel met and maintained an early friendship with Ilya Ehrenburg, while continuing to publish stories, to wide acclaim, throughout the 1920s. In 1925 Babel’s wife emigrated to Paris.

[edit] Clashes with the authorities

Left: Beria's January 1940 letter to Stalin, asking permission to execute 346 "enemies of the CPSU and of the Soviet authorities" who conducted "counter-revolutionary, right-Trotskyite plotting and spying activities." Number 12 on the list is Isaac Babel.
Middle: Stalin's handwriting: "за" (affirmative).
Right: The Politburo's decision is signed by Secretary Stalin.
In 1930, Babel travelled in Ukraine and witnessed the brutality of the collectivization in the USSR, especially the forced Famine-Genocide - Holodomor of 1932-1933. As Stalin tightened his grip on Soviet culture in the 1930s, and especially with the rise of socialist realism, Babel increasingly withdrew from public life. During the Stalinist campaign against "Formalism" in the art, Babel was criticized for alleged "Esthetism" and low productivity. At the first congress of the Union of Soviet Writers (1934), Babel noted that he was becoming "the master of a new literary genre, the genre of silence."

After numerous requests he was permitted to visit his family in France, and in 1935, he delivered a speech to anti-fascist International Congress of Writers in Paris. Upon his return, Babel collaborated with Sergei Eisenstein on the film Bezhin Meadow and worked on the screenplays for other Soviet movies.

Arrest and death

The NKVD photo of Babel made after his arrestAfter the suspicious death of Gorky in 1936, Babel noted: "Now they will come for me." (See Great Purge). He also reportedly "began an affair with the beautiful adventuress wife of Stalin's murderous NKVD boss, Yezhov" and when Yezhov was thrown from power, "so did she and all her lovers - including Babel."

In May 1939 he was arrested at his cottage in Peredelkino, and eventually interrogated at Lubyanka on charges of espionage. On his arrest, Babel told his wife "Please see our girl grows up happy."After a forced confession, Babel was tried, found guilty, and, on January 27, 1940, shot in Butyrka prison. Reportedly, while Babel confessed under torture, "once he realised he was doomed, he recanted" but "it made no difference." His widow, Antonina Pirozhkova (Антонина Пирожкова), did not know about his fate for 15 years.

According to early official Soviet version, Isaac Babel died in a prison camp in Siberia on March 17, 1941. His archives and manuscripts were confiscated by the NKVD and lost.

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Gennadiy Aygi

Gennadiy Nikolaevich Aygi (Chuvash: Айхи Геннадий Николаевич; Russian: Геннадий Николаевич Айги, August 21, 1934 - February 21, 2006, Moscow) was a Chuvashian poet and a translator. His poetry is written both in Chuvash and in Russian.

He was born in the village of Shaimurzinoge, Chuvashia (USSR) and started writing poetry in the Chuvash language in 1958.

Among the recognitions he has won are the Andrey Bely Prize (1987), the Pasternak Prize (2000, the first to be awarded this), the Prize of French Academy (1972), and the Petrarch Prize (1993).

Sofia Gubaidulina set several of his poems to music in her cycle Jetzt Immer Schnee ("Now always snow").

His son Aleksey Aygi is a famous composer.

Lera Auerbach

Lera Auerbach (Russian: Лера Авербах; b. October 21, 1973 in Chelyabinsk, Russia) is one of the most widely performed composers of the new generation.[1]

She was born in Chelyabinsk, a city in the Urals bordering Siberia. Auerbach continues the tradition of virtuoso pianist-composers of the 19th and 20th centuries. She is the youngest composer on the roster of the prestigious international music publishing company Hans Sikorski well-known as a home to Prokofiev, Shostakovich, Schnittke, Gubaidulina and Kancheli. Auerbach's music is characterized by its stylistic freedom and juxtaposition of tonal and atonal musical language.
Auerbach made her Carnegie Hall debut in May 2002 performing her own Suite for Violin, Piano and Orchestra with Gidon Kremer and the Kremerata Baltica. Ms. Auerbach's music has been presented at Carnegie Hall each season since then.[2] In 2005, Lera Auerbach was awarded the prestigious Hindemith Prize by the Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival in Germany.

Auerbach's compositions have been commissioned and performed by a wide array of artists, orchestras and ballet companies including Gidon Kremer, the Kremerata Baltica, David Finckel, Wu Han, Vadim Gluzman, the Tokyo, Kuss and Petersen String Quartets, the SWR and NDR (Hannover) Symphony Orchestras, NDR Hamburg and the Royal Danish Ballet. Lera Auerbach’s music has also been commissioned and performed by leading Festivals throughout the world including Caramoor, Lucerne, Lockenhaus, Bremen and Schleswig-Holstein.

Lera Auerbach has appeared as solo pianist at such prestigious venues as the Bolshoi Saal of the Moscow Conservatory, Tokyo's Opera City, New York's Lincoln Center, Munich's Herkulessaal, Oslo's Konzerthaus, Chicago's Symphony Hall and Washington's Kennedy Center.

Lera Auerbach holds degrees in piano and composition from The Juilliard School, where she studied piano with Joseph Kalichstein and composition with Milton Babbitt. She also graduated from the prestigious piano soloist program of the Hannover Hochschule für Musik.

A new commission by The Royal Danish Ballet, to celebrate Hans Christian Andersen's bicentenary, was Lera Auerbach's second collaboration with choreographer John Neumeier. The ballet is a modern rendition of the classic fairy tale 'The Little Mermaid' and was premiered successfully in April 2005.

In 2005 Lera Auerbach received the prestigious Paul-Hindemith-Prize by the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival. In the same year she received the Förderpreis Deutschlandfunk and the Bremer Musikfest-Prize where she is currently composer in residence.

Lera Auerbach is also a writer. She has published six volumes of poetry and prose in Russian.

[edit] Recordings
24 Preludes (BIS 2003)
Tolstoy's Waltz (BIS 2004)
Auerbach plays Mozart (ARABESQUE 2005)
Ballet for a Lonely Violinist (BIS 2005)
Preludes and Dreams (BIS 2006)
Cetera Desunt, String Quartet No. 3 (CAPRICCIO 2006)
Flight and Fire (PROFIL - Hänssler Classics 2007)

[edit] External links
Official website
Internationale Musikverlage Hans Sikorski
Catalogue of works
BIS Records

[edit] Notes
^ Jerry Bowles: "The Total Package", Sequenza 21, Wednesday, August 10, 2005 http://www.sequenza21.com/2005/08/lera-auerbach-total-package.html
^ Carnegie Hall Schedule Publications 05.01.2002 Suite for Violin, Piano and Orchestra (Gidon Kremer, violin; Lera Auerbach, piano and Kremerata Baltica) 10.07.2003 Sonata for Violin and Piano No. 2 (Philippe Quint Violin, Adam Neiman, Piano) 2004 20.02.2004 Sonata for Solo Cello (Christophor Miroshnikov, cello) 04.01.2005 Dreams and Whispers of Poseidon - (American Youth Symphony) 2006 Trio for Violin Piano and Orchestra (Clavier Trio) 03.11.2007 Oskolki for Violin and Piano (Borok-Ponochevny Duo)
Retrieved from "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lera_Auerbach"

Viktor Astafiyev

Viktor Petrovich Astafiyev also spelled Astafiev or Astaf'ev (Russian: Виктор Петрович Астафьев) (May 1, 1924 - November 29, 2001), was a Russian writer of short stories and novels.

Viktor Astafiyev was born in a village of Ovsyanka near Krasnoyarsk on the bank of the Yenisei river and spent much of his childhood in an orphanage. He was conscripted into the Soviet Army in 1942. He was seriously wounded fighting the Germans during the Great Patriotic War and after his discharge in 1945 he lived in different regions of Russia including Urals, Chusovoy near Perm and Vologda doing various jobs such as locksmith and smelter.

In 1953 Astafiyev published his first collection of stories dedicated mostly to the experience of Russian soldiers and civilians during the Great Patriotic War.

After 1962 he became a professional writer authoring realistic often critical of the Soviet regime novels about the war and the Stalin era. His criticism of the Soviet times gained him popularity.

In the mid-1980s, he became embroiled in significant controversy over his writings followed by accusations of chauvinism and xenophobia when the public learned, through samizdat, about the correspondence between the literary historian Natan Eidelman and Astafiyev that had been provoked by Astafiyev's anti-Semitic overtones in Sad Detective and his The Catching of Gudgeons in Georgia (both 1986), which rudely ridiculed Georgians. At the 8th USSR Writers Union Congress in the summer of 1986, Georgian delegates urged the author to apologize publicly for his insult to the Georgian nation; when he refused, they walked out in protest.

In 1999, his novel Jolly Soldier, which portrayed the horrors of the Soviet Army was met with extremely adverse reaction, which cost him a heart failure.

Mikhail Artsybashev

Biography and work

Mikhail ArtsybashevArtsybashev was born in khutor Dubroslavovka, Akhtyrka uezd, Kharkov gubernia (currently Ukraine). He studied in Kharkov School of Drawing and Art (1897 - 1898). In 1898 moved to Saint Petersburg, where lived as a freelance journalist. His first major publication was story Meeting published in 1901. He considered his novel Death of Lande (1904) to be his best work, but the major success was the novel Sanin (1907), which scandalized the Victorian tastes of Russian public and was prohibited in many countries. The protagonist of the novel ignores all social conventions and specializes in seducing innocent country girls. In one notorious scene, a girl tries to wash embarrassing white stains off her dress after a sexual intercourse with Sanin.

In 1923 he received Polish citizenship (his mother was a Pole) and emigrated to Poland, where he edited newspaper For Liberty!. Artzybashev was known as an irreconcilable enemy of bolshevik regime, and Soviet critics dubbed the novels of his followers saninstvo and artsybashevchina. He died in Warsaw on March 3 1927.

Mikhail Artsybashev is the father of Boris Artzybasheff, who emigrated to the United States and became famous as an illustrator.

Innokenty Annensky

Annensky was born into the family of a public official in Omsk on September 1 N.S. 1855. In 1860, while still a child, he was taken to Saint Petersburg. Innokenty lost his parents early on, and was raised in the family of his older brother, Nikolai Annensky, a prominent Narodnik and political activist.

In 1879 Innokenty graduated from the philological department of St Petersburg University, where he concentrated on Historical-comparative linguistics. He himself became a teacher, and taught classical languages and ancient literature studies in a gimnasium of Tsarskoe Selo. He served as the Director of this school from 1886 until his death in 1909. From his school graduated Anna Akhmatova, who called Annensky "my only teacher," and Nikolai Gumilev, who called him "the last of Tsarskoe Selo's swans."

Like Vasily Zhukovsky before him, Annensky was somewhat reluctant to publish his original poems and first gained renown with his masterful translations of Euripides and the French Symbolists. From 1890 until his death in 1909 he translated from Ancient Greek all the works of Euripides. At the beginning of the 1900s Annensky wrote a series of tragedies modelled after the ancient Greek ones: Melanippa-filosof (1901), Tsar Iksion (1903), Laodamia (1906). Some of these works were dedicated to a colleague, Faddei Zielinski, who would later write his obituary.

Among the Worlds (1901)

Among the worlds, in glimmering of stars,
The single Star is ever my attraction…
Not ‘cause I’d so loved Her so far,
But ‘cause I live with others with aversion.

And if my doubts were an awful plight,
I just from Her wait for the final answers,
Not ‘cause She sends to me the saving light,
But ‘cause with Her I can live and in darkness.

Translation by Yevgeny Bonver 2001
As a literary critic, Annensky published The Book of Reflections, two volumes of essays on Nikolai Gogol, Mikhail Lermontov, Ivan Goncharov, and his favourite Fyodor Dostoyevsky. His essays were sometimes termed "critical prose" because of the artistic value of these texts. During his last months, Annensky worked as an editor of Sergei Makovsky's journal Apollon, in which he published some essays on the theory of poetry. Nikolai Gumilev valued these theoretical works very highly and considered Annensky to be the first true acmeist.

In literary history, Annensky is remembered primarily as a poet. He started writing poetry in the 1870s but did not publish it. He followed the advice of his older brother Nikolay not to publish anything until you are 35. His first collection of poems, entitled Quiet Songs, was published in 1904 under the pseudonym Nik. T.-o (i.e., "No one" in Russian). It gained moderate praise from leading Symbolists, many of whom didn't suspect that Annensky was its real author. His second book, Cypress Box, was much more important. The poet died just days before its projected publication. Many of his unpublished pieces were edited in the 1920s by his stepson Valentin Krivich, who was a minor poet.

On December 11 N.S. 1909 Innokenty Annensky died from a heart attack at the Tsarskoe Selo railway station of Saint Petersburg. His death was linked to family difficulties. Many of his finest pieces (e.g., Stansy, Dalnie Ruki) were actually inspired by Annensky's unrequited love for his daughter-in-law.

Annensky's best poems are intricate and obscure: the images are meant to evoke (rather than to record) subtle associations of half-forgotten memories. He once said that the most important thing in poetry is a thread that would bind all the rambling associations into a tightly structured short poem. Aleksander Blok called him a necrophiliac poet, with death being his only theme. While this assessment may appear harsh and far-fetched, it is true that Annensky alluded to death in the sinister odours he cites in many of his poems.

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Daniil Andreyev

Daniil Andreyev was the son of Leonid Andreyev, a prominent Russian writer of the start of the century; Maxim Gorky was his godfather. After the infant's mother, Alexandra (Veligorsky) Andreeva, died during childbirth, Leonid Andreev gave the infant Daniil to his late wife's sister, Elizabeth Dobrov, to raise. This act had two important consequences: it meant that when Leonid Andreev, like many other writers and intellectuals, left Russia after the 1917 Russian Revolution, his young son remained behind; it also meant that Daniil was raised in a household that remained deeply religious, in contrast to much of the Russian intelligentsia of the era.

Like many of his contemporaries, the boy Daniil had a pronounced literary bent; he began writing poetry and prose in early childhood. He graduated from high school but was not allowed to attend university, because of his "non-proletarian" background. He supported himself as a graphic artist and wrote in his spare time.

Daniil Andreev was enrolled into the Soviet Army in 1942. He served as a noncombatant, and during the Siege of Leningrad helped to transport supplies across Lake Ladoga. After World War II Andreev returned to civilian life, but was arrested by Soviet authorities in April 1947 and sentenced to 25 years of imprisonment, being accused of anti-Soviet propaganda and preparations to assassinate Stalin. He suffered a heart attack in prison in 1954, the first manifestation of the heart condition that would eventually cause his death. He was released in 1957, already terminally ill.

While in prison in Vladimir from 1947 to 1957, Andreev had mystic visions and started writing Roza Mira, finishing it after he was released. The book was known in the Soviet Union via Samizdat, but was first officially published only in 1991. In 1997, Roza Mira was published in English in the USA.

Literary Works
Almost all works that Andreev wrote before 1947, were destroyed by MGB as "anti-Soviet literature", including his novel Wanderers of Night (Russian: Странники ночи) about the spiritual opposition to the Soviet regime and atheism. Being imprisoned, however, Andreev managed to restore some of his poems. He also tried to restore Wanderers of Night, but he could only restore a few pages of it. Also some works of his childhood were kept by his friend, including his first poems written at the age of 8.

His main book, Roza Mira (Russian: Роза Мира, literally "The Rose of the World") contains a detailed description of numerous layers of spiritual reality that surround Earth, of the forthcoming religion called Roza Mira that will emerge and unite all people and states, and of the events of the future advent of Antichrist and his fall.

Apart from Roza Mira, he wrote a poem The Iron Mystery (Russian: Железная мистерия, published in 1990), a "poetic ensemble" (that is how he called it) Russian gods (Russian: Русские боги, full text published in 1995) and other works.

Leonid Andreyev

Leonid Nikolaievich Andreyev often also in Latin transcription Andrejew (Russian: Леонид Николаевич Андреев, August 9, 1871-September 12, 1919) was a Russian playwright and short-story writer who led the Expressionist movement in the national literature. He was active between the revolution of 1905 and the Communist revolution which finally overthrew the Tsarist government.

Born in the Oryol province of Russia, Andreyev originally studied law in Moscow and St. Petersburg, but abandoned his unremunerative law practice to pursue a literary career. He became police-court reporter for a Moscow daily, performing the routine of his humble calling without attracting any particular attention. His first story published was About a Poor Student, a narrative based upon his own experiences. It was not, however, until Gorky discovered him by stories appearing in the Moscow Courier and elsewhere that Andreyev's literary career really began.

Andreyev, by Ilya Repin, 1904From that day to his death he was one of the most prolific writers in Russia, producing short stories, sketches, dramas, etc., in frequent succession. His first collection of stories appeared in 1901, and sold a quarter-million copies in short time. He was hailed as a new star in Russia, where his name soon became a by-word. He published his short story, "In the Fog" in 1902. Although he started out in the Russian vein he soon startled his readers by his eccentricities, which grew even faster than his fame. His two best known stories may be "The Red Laugh" (1904) and "The Seven Who Were Hanged" (1908). His dramas include the Symbolist plays The Life of Man (1906), Tsar Hunger (1907), Black Masks (1908), Anathema (1909), and He Who Gets Slapped (1915).[1]. The Life of Man was staged by both Stanislavski (with his Moscow Art Theatre) and Meyerhold (in St Petersburg), the two giants of Russian theatre of the twentieth century, in 1907.
Idealist and rebel, Andreyev spent his last years in bitter poverty, and his premature death from heart failure may have been hastened by his anguish over the results of the Bolshevik Revolution. Unlike his friend Maxim Gorky, Andreyev could not make peace with the new order. From his house in Finland he addressed manifestos to the world at large against the excesses of the Bolsheviks.

Aside from his political writings, Andreyev published little after 1914. A play, The Sorrows of Belgium, was written at the beginning of the War to celebrate the heroism of the Belgians against the invading German army. It was produced in the United States, as were the plays, The Life of Man (1917), The Rape of the Sabine Women (1922), He Who Gets Slapped (1922), and Anathema (1923). A popular and acclaimed film version of He Who Gets Slapped was produced by MGM Studios in 1924.

Leonid Andreyev and his wife, AnnaPoor Murderer, an adaptation of his short story Thought made by Pavel Kohout, opened on Broadway in 1976.

He was married to Countess Wielhorska, a niece of Taras Shevchenko. Their son was Daniil Andreyev, a poet and mystic, author of Roza Mira.

Leonid Andreyev's granddaughter, the American writer Olga Andrejew Carlisle, published a collection of his short stories, Visions, in 1987.

Aleksandr Amfiteatrov

Aleksandr Valentinovich Amfiteatrov (Russian: Александр Валентинович Амфитеатров) (December 26, 1862 – February 26, 1938) was a Russian writer and historian.

Born a priest's son in Kaluga, he was trained as a lawyer but became a journalist and popular novelist. In 1902 he was exiled for writing a satirical article on the imperial family. He returned to visit the front during the Russo-Japanese War, then returned to Western Europe, living in France and Italy.

Amfiteatrov conceived writing a book on Nero and early Christianity in 1890s. Italian exile provided him with plenty of sources and evidence, exposed him to leading European scholars, and in 1913 he completed Nero: The Beast out of the Bottomless Pit ("Зверь из бездны. Нерон", referring to Book of Revelation 11:7), a life story of Emperor Nero that evolved into a comprehensive encyclopedia of Rome at the end of Julio-Claudian dynasty and a critical review of contemporary historical concepts. By 1913, his eyesight was failing to the point where he could not proof-read and edit typographic print, he relied more on his memory than on reading, thus the first edition was released with major errors and continuity gaps. His second Roman study, Arch of Titus, dedicated to early Christianity in Rome, was not completed.

In Italy, he completed his most successful novels Vosmidesyatniki (1907-08) and Devyatidesyatniki (1911-13), dealing with the intelligentsia of the 1880s and 1890s, respectively. "Versatile and topical, but smartly superficial, Amfiteatrov catered for the general reader whose taste he knew to perfection" (Cassell's Encyclopaedia of World Literature, ed. S.H. Steinberg, p. 1680).

In 1916 Amfiteatrov returned to Russia and became editor of the nationalist newspaper Russkaya volya; because of his attacks on the government he was sent into exile in Irkutsk at the beginning of 1917, but after the February Revolution returned to Petrograd, where he edited a Cossack newspaper and wrote articles attacking the Bolsheviks until the latter ended freedom of the press, whereupon he became a teacher and translator. He left Russia with his family in August 1921; until the spring of 1922 he lived in Prague, then settled in Italy, where he wrote for many emigré journals. His sons were Vladimir Amfiteatrov-Kadashev, a writer and journalist (and friend of Nabokov); Daniil Amfiteatrov, a composer; and the musicians Maksim and Roman Amfiteatrov.

Mark Aldanov

Mark Aldanov (Mark Alexandrovich Landau) (Russian: Алданов Марк Александрович) (7 November [O.S. 26 October] 1889–February 25, 1957) was a Russian emigrant writer, known for his historical novels.

Mark Landau (Aldanov) was born in Kiev in the family of a rich industrialist. He graduated the physical-mathematical and law departments of Kiev University. He published serious research papers in chemistry. In 1919 he emigrated to France. During 1922-1924 he lived in Berlin and during 1941-1946, in the United States.

Aldanov's first book about Vladimir Lenin, translated into several languages, immediately gained him popularity. Then followed a trilogy of novels attempting to trace the roots of the Russian Revolution. He also wrote a tetralogy of novels about Napoleonic wars. All in all, he published 16 larger literary works and a great number of articles and essays.

Mark Aldanov died in Nice, France. His extensive correspondence with Vladimir Nabokov, Ivan Bunin, Alexander Kerensky and other emigre celebrities was published posthumously.

The Thinker, a tetralogy:

The Ninth Thermidor
The Devil's Bridge
The Conspiracy
St. Helena: Little Island

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Boris Akunin

Boris Akunin (Russian: Борис Акунин) is the pen name of Grigory Shalvovich Chkhartishvili (Григорий Шалвович Чхартишвили), born May 20, 1956, a Russian essayist, literary translator, and fiction writer. He was born in Tbilisi into a Georgian family, and since 1958 has lived in Moscow. "Akunin" (悪人) is a Japanese word that translates loosely to "villain". In his novel "Diamond Chariot", the author defines an "akunin" further as one who creates his own rules. The pseudonym "B. Akunin" also alludes to the anarchist Mikhail Alexandrovich Bakunin and to Akuna, Anna Akhmatova's home name.

Influenced by Japanese Kabuki theatre, he joined the historical-philological branch of the Institute of the countries of Asia and Africa of Moscow State University and became a Japanologist. He worked as assistant to the editor-in-chief of the magazine Foreign Literature, however at the beginning of October 2000 left there to work in fiction.

As Grigory Chkhartishvili, he is editor-in-chief of the 20-volume "Anthology of Japanese literature", chairman of the board of a megaproject "Pushkin library " (Soros Fund), and the author of the book "The Writer and Suicide" (Moscow, The New Literary Review, 1999), literary criticism, and translations from Japanese, American and English literature.

Under the pseudonym Boris Akunin he has written several works of fiction, mainly novels and stories in the following series: "Adventures of Erast Fandorin", "The Adventures of Sister Pelagia" and "The Adventures of the Master". Akunin's specialty is historical mysteries set in Imperial Russia. It was only after the first books of the Fandorin series were published to critical acclaim that the identity of B. Akunin (i.e., Chkhartishvili) was revealed.

In 2000 Boris Akunin was nominated for the Smirnoff-Booker prize. In September of 2000, Akunin was named the Russian Writer of the Year and was the winner of the literary prize "Antibooker" for 2000 for the novel Crowning or Coronation, or the last of the Romanovs.

Erast Fandorin books have been published in Italy, France, Japan, the U.S., Poland, Estonia, Germany and in other countries.

In late 2003 The British Crime Writers' Association announced its short lists for its Dagger Awards 2003. Boris Akunin's The Winter Queen was shortlisted in the category Gold & Silver Daggers for Fiction.

Two Fandorin novels, Turkish Gambit and The State Councillor, were made into big-budget movies which broke Russian box-office records in 2005.

Erast Fandorin - (dates are for the setting of the narrative not pub. dates)
The Winter Queen, original title Azazel / Азазель (1876): The 20-year old Fandorin begins his career by accidentally stumbling over a world-domination plot.
The Turkish Gambit / Турецкий гамбит (1877) : The story is set before the backdrop of the Russo-Turkish War, in particular the Siege of Pleven.
Murder on the Leviathan / Левиафан (1878) : The third novel in the series, though the second one released in English. Set on a steamship headed from England to India.
The Death of Achilles / Смерть Ахиллеса (1882) : The story unwinds from the death of Mikhail Skobelev (called Sobolev in the novel) in a Moscow hotel.
The Jack of Spades / Пиковый валет (1886) : Fandorin hunts down a clever gang of swindlers.
The Decorator / Декоратор (1889) [6]: After ending his string of murders in England, Jack the Ripper surfaces in Moscow.
The State Counsellor / Статский советник (1891): Political terrorism in late 19th-century Russia takes center stage.
Coronation, or the Last of the Romanovs / Коронация, или Последний из романов (1896): The plot surrounds the ascension of tsar Nicholas II.
She Lover of Death / Любовница смерти (1900): A decadent suicide society causes a stir in Moscow.
He Lover of Death / Любовник Смерти (1900): Set in the slums of Khitrovka, Moscow.
The Diamond Chariot / Алмазная колесница (1905 / 1878): Events of the Russo-Japanese war of 1905 set against a flashback to Fandorin's diplomatic service in Yokohama.
Jade Rosary / Нефритовые четки (alternative title translation is Jade Rosary Beads) (a collection of short stories and novellas set in the 19th century): Some of the "holes" in the canon are filled, including Fandorin's service in Japan, his investigations in the 1880s while a Deputy for Special Assignments in the Moscow city administration and his adventures in America.
The Jack of Spades and The Decorator were published together in a single volume, Special Assignments.

Sister Pelagia: A series about a crime-solving nun in turn-of-the-20th-century provincial Russia.
Pelagia and the White Bulldog / Пелагия и белый бульдог
Pelagia and the Black Monk / Пелагия и черный монах
Pelagia and the Red Rooster / Пелагия и красный петух
Nicholas Fandorin: A series of adventure novels about Erast Fandorin's grandson, a modern-day British historian.
Altyn Tolobas / Алтын-толобас : Nicholas visits Russia in 1995 while a story of his 17th-century ancestor is told in alternating chapters.
Extracurricular Reading/ Внеклассное чтение: Nicholas' adventures in Moscow in 2001 are told together with a story of yet another ancestor, this one set in the end of Catherine the Great's reign.
F.M.: Nicholas is looking for a lost Dostoevsky manuscript.
The Genres Project (novels written in different fiction genres, each book's title refers to the particular genre)
Children's Book / Детская книга: Erast Fandorin Jr. (Nicholas' ten-year-old son) goes on a time-travelling adventure.
Spy Novel / Шпионский роман: Set in 1941, just before Hitler's invasion of the Soviet Union.
Science Fiction / Фантастика: Two young men cope with their mysteriously acquired superpowers in the Soviet Union's dying days.
The Seagull / Чайка, Комедия в двух действиях: a reworking of Anton Chekhov's Seagull as a mystery
Comedy/Tragedy (the Tragedy is also known as "Hamlet, by B. Akunin," with "Mirror of Saint Germain" being the alternate name for the Comedy.)
Ying and Yan (a play about Erast Fandorin, set in 1882).
Fairy Tales for Idiots / Сказки для Идиотов (a collection of short stories, not related to any of the series).

 New series
In December 2007, a new Akunin series will debut in Russia, Brüderschaft with Death (Смерть на брудершафт). Brüderschaft (a "brotherhood toast") is a German drinking tradition. The new series is referred to by the author as a "cinematic novel". It was written with the expectiation to be made into a motion picture, but the plans for a screen adaptation fell through[11]. The series will consist of ten novellas, or "films". The unifying theme is espionage during World War I. There will be two principal characters, a German superspy Sepp von Theofels (first introduced in the Spy Novel) and his upstart Russian adversary Alexei Romanov (likely, the same person as General Oktyabrsky from the Spy Novel). The first book of the series will contain two novellas, An Infant And A Demon (Младенец и черт) and Sufferings of a Broken Heart (Мука разбитого сердца).

 Future plans
As Akunin has indicated in interviews, the Sister Pelagia series is finished (only three books were ever planned) while the other three projects will continue. In particular, he plans to write three more Erast Fandorin books. Two of them will be novels: one will take place around 1913 or 1914 (and may be about Rasputin), the other during the Russian Civil War. The final book of the series will be another collection of short stories and novellas, similar in structure to Jade Rosary and take place entirely during the 20th century.

There will also be at least one more book about Nicholas Fandorin. Akunin has indicated that he already has the plot thought out and that this fourth book of the series may also be the last.

The Genres project will continue as well. Children's Book 2 (Детская книга-2), featuring Angelina, Nicolas Fandorin's 10-year-old daughter, may be the next installment.

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Vasily Aksyonov

Vasily Pavlovich Aksyonov (Russian: Василий Павлович Аксёнов) is a Russian novelist who began his career in the Soviet era. He is known in the West as the author of The Burn (Russian: "Ожог" - Ozhog, 1975) and the critically acclaimed Generations of Winter (Russian: "Московская сага", Moskovskaya saga, 1992), a family saga depicting three generations of the Gradov family in 1925–1953.

Vasily Aksyonov was born to Pavel Aksyonov and Yevgenia Ginzburg (Eugenia) in Kazan, USSR on August 20, 1932. His mother was a successful journalist and educator and his father Pavel Aksyonov had a high position in the administration of Kazan. Both of them were faithful communists. In 1937 Yevgenia Ginzburg was arrested and tried for her alleged connection to Trotskyists. She was sentenced to 10 years of solitary confinement in prison (later changed to 10 years of forced labour in labour camps). Vasily's father Pavel was arrested soon afterwards for a similar crime and was sentenced to 15 years of corrective labour.

Vasily remained in Kazan with his nanny and grandmother until NKVD arrested him as a son of the "enemies of the people" and sent him to an orphanage without giving any information to his family. In 1938 Pavel Aksyonov's brother managed to find Vasily in an orphanage in Kostroma and took him to live with his father's side of the family till 1948.

In 1948, after her sentence was completed, Yevgenia Ginzburg managed to obtain a permission for Vasily to join her in Magadan, Kolyma. She described their first meeting in her autobiographical book Journey into the Whirlwind. Vasily completed his school education in Magadan and a decision was made to send him to the Medical University in Kazan.

Vasily's half-brother Alexei (from Ginzburg's first marriage to Dmitriy Fedorov) died from starvation in besieged Leningrad in 1941.

Vasily Aksyonov is a convinced anti-totalitarian. On the presentation of his newest novel, he stated: "If in this country one starts erecting Stalin statues again, I have to reject my native land. Nothing else remains."

His other novels are

Colleagues ("Коллеги" - Kollegi, 1960)
Star Ticket ("Звёздный билет" - Zvyozdny bilet, 1961)
Oranges from Morocco ("Апельсины из Марокко" - Apel'siny iz Marokko, 1963)
It's Time, My Friend, It's Time ("Пора, мой друг, пора" - Pora, moy drug, pora, 1964)
It's a Pity You Weren't with Us ("Жаль, что вас не было с нами" - Zhal', chto vas ne bylo s nami, 1965)
Overstocked Packaging Barrels ("Затоваренная бочкотара" - Zatovarennaya bochkotara, 1968)
In Search of a Genre ("В поисках жанра" - V poiskakh zhanra, 1972)
The Island of Crimea ("Остров Крым" - "Ostrov Krym", 1979)
In Search of Melancholy Baby ("В поисках грустного бэби" - V poiskakh grustnogo bebi, 1987)
Yolk of the Egg (written in English, 1989)
The New Sweet Style ("Новый сладостный стиль" - Novy sladostny stil', 1998)
Voltairian Men and Women ("Вольтерьянцы и вольтерьянки" - Volteryantsy i volteryanki, 2004 - won the Russian Booker Prize).
He is the son of Yevgenia Ginzburg. Until 2003, Aksyonov was a professor of Russian at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia.

His new novel 'Moskva-kva-kva' (2006) was published in the Moscow magazine 'Oktyabr'. Aksyonov is now living in his Moscow apartment with his wife, Maya Zmeul, and has a second home in Biarritz, France.

Sergei Aksakov

Sergei Timofeevich Aksakov (Russian: Сергей Тимофеевич Аксаков) (September 20, 1791—April 30, 1859 (OS); October 1, 1791—May 12, 1859 (NS)) was a 19th century Russian literary figure remembered for his semi-autobiographical tales of a landlord's family life, hunting, fishing, and butterfly collecting.

According to the Velvet Book, the Aksakovs trace their male line to a nephew of Haakon the Old, who settled in Novgorod in 1027. Sergey was born in Ufa, brought up in his family estate at Novo-Aksakovka, and educated in the Kazan University. Having taken part in the Campaign of 1812, he settled for a quiet life of sporting country squire in 1816. About two decades later, Aksakov moved to Moscow, where he joined the censorship department and started to publish his notes on hunting and fishing. These made him a national celebrity and won him a number of admirers, some of whom declared Aksakov superior not only to Gogol but even to Shakespeare.

In 1843 Aksakov settled in the village of Abramtsevo, which was also frequented by his Slavophile sons, Konstantin Aksakov and Ivan Aksakov. In the late 1850s he published his most enduring works, The Family Chronicle (1856) and Childhood Years of Grandson Bagrov (1858). These are reminiscences of a childhood spent in the Russian patriarchal family rather than a full-scale work of fiction. Aksakov's semi-autobiographical narratives are unmatched for their objective and detailed description of everyday life of Russian nobility.

Among his lesser works, a fairy tale The Scarlet Flower and an account of his friendship with Gogol should be mentioned. The Scarlet Flower was adapted into an animated feature film in the Soviet Union in 1952.

For Quiz related to this author please visit Squareroot

Konstantin Aksakov

Konstantin Sergeyevich Aksakov (Russian: Константин Аксаков) (1817 - 1860) was a Russian critic and writer, one of the earliest and most notable Slavophiles. He wrote plays, social criticism, and histories of the ancient Russian social order. The writer Sergey Aksakov was his father, and the journalist Ivan Aksakov was his younger brother.

Konstantin was the first to publish an analysis of Gogol's Dead Souls, comparing the Russian author with Homer (1842). After Alexander II's ascension to the throne, he sent him a letter advising to restore Zemsky sobors (1855). Aksakov also penned a number of articles on Slavonic linguistics.

 Personal Life
Aksakov was raised on a country estate before moving to Moscow with his family. He remained with his parents his entire life, never marrying or moving out of the house. He studied at Moscow University, becoming a member of the Stankevitch circle, a group of Russian Hegelians and early forerunners of Russian Democracy.

Aksakov eventually made the acquaintance of Ivan Kireevsky and Aleksey Khomyakov, adopted their philosophy of Slavophilism, and broke of all contact with the Stankevitch circle.

Aksakov's thesis on Lomonosov (1846) attempted to synthesize his view of the Russian peasant's religious and historical mission with Hegel's philosophy. Later in his career, Akasakov abandoned Hegelian philosophy, becoming radically anti-European.

Bella Akhmadulina

Bella (Izabella) Akhatovna Akhmadulina (Russian: Белла Ахатовна Ахмадулина) is a Russian poet who has been cited by Joseph Brodsky as the best living poet in the Russian language.

Bella was born on the 10 April 1937 in Moscow. Akhmadulina was the only child of a Tatar father and a Russian-Italian mother. Her literary career began when she was a school-girl working as a journalist on the Moscow newspaper "Metrostroevets" and improving her poetic skills at a circle organized by a poet Yevgeny Vinokurov. Her first poems were published in 1955 in a magazine "October" and approved by orthodox Soviet poets.

After finishing school she entered the Gorky Literary Institute from which she graduated in 1960. During her studying at the institute she published her poems & articles in different newspapers, both official and handwritten. In 1962 the first collection of her poems named "String" was a resounding success. In spite of being expurged a lot of collections of verses were published later: "Music lessons" (1969), "Poems" (1975), "Candle" (1977), "Dreams on Georgia" (1977), "Coastline" (1991) and others. Some of her poems have become popular songs.

Bella's first marriage - Yevgeny Yevtushenko (1954); second - Yuri Nagibin (1960). Since 1974 she has been married to the famous Russian artist Boris Messerer. They have a house in Peredelkino and a studio in Moscow.

The main themes of Akhmadulina's works are friendship, love, and relations between people. She is the author of numerous essays about Russian poets and translations. Some of them were devoted to her close friend, Bulat Okudzhava. Akhmadulina avoids writing poems on politics but she took part in political events of her youth supporting the movement of so-called dissidents.

In 1977, Bella Akhmadulina became an Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters ([1]).

Laureate of the following Prizes:

State Prize Laureate (1989)
"Nosside" (Italy, 1992)
"Independent" (Triumph, 1993)
"Pushkin" (Germany, 1994)
In 1984 Bella was honoured with the Order of "Friendship of Peoples" (1984)

Bella Akhmadulna translated into the Russian language poetry from France, Italy, Chechnya, Poland, Yugoslavia, Hungary, Bulgaria, Georgia, Armenia and many other.

Bella Akhmadulina's poetry books:

"Struna" ('String'), Moscow - 1962
"Oznob" ('Fever'), Frankfurt - 1968
"Uroki Muzyki" ('Lessons of Music') - 1969
"Stikhi" ('Verses') - 1975
"Svecha" ('Candle') - 1977
"Sny o Gruzii" ('Dreams of Georgia') - 1978-1979
"Metell" ('Snow-Storm') - 1977
"Taina" ('Secret') - 1983
"Sad" ('The Garden') - 1987
"Stikhotvorenie" ('A Verse') - 1988
"Izbrannoye" ('Selections') - 1988
"Stikhi" ('Verses') - 1988
"Poberezhye" ('A Coast') - 1991
"Larets i Kliutch" ('Casket and Key') - 1994
"Gryada Kamnei" ('A Ridge of Stones') - 1995
"Samye Moi Stikhi" ('Very Mine Verses') - 1995
"Zvuk Ukazuyushchiy" ('A Guiding Sound') - 1995
"Odnazhdy v Dekabre" ('Sometime in December') - 1996

Anna Akhmatova

Early life

Akhmatova was born at Bolshoy Fontan in Odessa. Her childhood does not appear to have been happy; her parents separated in 1905. She was educated in Kiev, Tsarskoe Selo, and the Smolny Institute of St Petersburg. Anna started writing poetry at the age of 11, inspired by her favourite poets: Racine, Pushkin, and Baratynsky. As her father did not want to see any verses printed under his "respectable" name, she chose to adopt the surname of her Tatar grandmother as a pseudonym.

Grey-Eyed King (1910)

Hail to thee, o, inconsolate pain!
The young grey-eyed king has been yesterday slain.

That autumnal evening was stuffy and red.
My husband, returning, had quietly said,

"He'd left for his hunting; they carried him home;
They found him under the old oak's dome.

I pity his queen. He, so young, passed away!...
During one night her black hair turned to grey."

He picked up his pipe from the fireplace shelf,
And went off to work for the night by himself.

Now my daughter I will wake up and rise --
And I will look in her little grey eyes...

And murmuring poplars outside can be heard:
Your king is no longer here on this earth.
Many of the male Russian poets of the time declared their love for Akhmatova; she reciprocated the attentions of Osip Mandelstam, whose wife Nadezhda Mandelstam would eventually forgive Akhmatova in her autobiography, Hope Against Hope . In 1910, she married the boyish poet Nikolay Gumilyov, who very soon left her for lion hunting in Africa, the battlefields of the World War I, and the society of Parisian grisettes. Her husband did not take her poems seriously, and was shocked when Alexander Blok declared to him that he preferred her poems to his. Their son, Lev, born in 1912, was to become a famous Neo-Eurasianist historian.

Silver Age
In 1912, she published her first collection, entitled Evening. It contained brief, psychologically taut pieces which English readers may find distantly reminiscent of Robert Browning and Thomas Hardy. They were acclaimed for their classical diction, telling details, and the skilful use of colour.

By the time her second collection, the Rosary, appeared in 1914, there were thousands of women composing their poems "after Akhmatova". Her early poems usually picture a man and a woman involved in the most poignant, ambiguous moment of their relationship. Such pieces were much imitated and later parodied by Nabokov and others. Akhmatova was prompted to exclaim: "I taught our women how to speak but don't know how to make them silent".

Together with her husband, Akhmatova enjoyed a high reputation in the circle of Acmeist poets. Her aristocratic manners and artistic integrity won her the titles of the "Queen of the Neva" and the "soul of the Silver Age", as the period came to be known in the history of Russian poetry. Many decades later, she would recall this blessed time of her life in the longest of her works, the "Poem Without Hero" (1940–65), inspired by Pushkin's Eugene Onegin.

The accursed years
Nikolay Gumilyov was executed in 1921 for activities considered anti-Soviet; Akhmatova presently remarried a prominent Assyriologist Vladimir Shilejko, and then an art scholar, Nikolay Punin, who died in the Stalinist Gulag camps.After that, she spurned several proposals from the married poet Boris Pasternak.

My Way (1940)

One goes in straightforward ways,
One in a circle roams:
Waits for a girl of his gone days,
Or for returning home.

But I do go -- and woe is there --
By a way nor straight, nor broad,
But into never and nowhere,
Like trains -- off the railroad.
After 1922, Akhmatova was condemned as a bourgeois element, and from 1925 to 1940 her poetry was banned from publication. She earned her living by translating Leopardi and publishing essays, including some brilliant essays on Pushkin in scholarly periodicals. All of her friends either emigrated or were repressed.

Only a few people in the West suspected that she was still alive, when she was allowed to publish a collection of new poems in 1940. During the Great Patriotic War, when she witnessed the nightmare of the 900-Day Siege, her patriotic poems found their way to the front pages of Pravda. After Akhmatova returned to Leningrad following the Central Asian evacuation in 1944, she was disconcerted with "a terrible ghost that pretended to be my city".

Upon learning about Isaiah Berlin's visit to Akhmatova in 1946, Stalin's associate in charge of culture, Andrei Zhdanov, publicly labelled her "half harlot, half nun", had her poems banned from publication, and attempted to have her expelled from the Writers' Union, tantamount to a sentence of death by starvation. Her son spent his youth in Stalinist gulags, and she even resorted to publishing several poems in praise of Stalin to secure his release. Their relations remained strained, however.

Although officially stifled, Akhmatova's work continued to circulate in samizdat form and even by word of mouth, as she became a symbol of suppressed Russian heritage.

The thaw
After Stalin's death, Akhmatova's preeminence among Russian poets was grudgingly conceded, even by party officials, and a censored edition of her work was published; conspicuously absent was Requiem, which Isaiah Berlin had predicted in 1946 would never be published in the Soviet Union. Her later pieces, composed in neoclassical rhyming and mood, seem to be the voice of many she has outlived. Her dacha in Komarovo was frequented by Joseph Brodsky and other young poets, who continued Akhmatova's traditions of St Petersburg poetry into the 21st century.

In honor of her 75th birthday in 1964, special observances were held and new collections of her verse were published.

Akhmatova got a chance to meet some of her pre-revolutionary acquaintances in 1965, when she was allowed to travel to Sicily and England, in order to receive the Taormina prize and the honorary doctoral degree from Oxford University (in the trip she was accompanied by her life-long friend and secretary Lydia Chukovskaya). In 1962, her dacha was visited by Robert Frost. In 1968, a two volume collected edition of Akhmatova's prose and poetry was published by Inter-Language Literary Associates of West Germany.

Song of the Last Meeting (1911)

My breast grew helplessly cold,
But my steps were light.
I pulled the glove from my left hand
Mistakenly onto my right.

It seemed there were so many steps,
But I knew there were only three!
Amidst the maples an autumn whisper
Pleaded: "Die with me!

I'm led astray by evil
Fate, so black and so untrue."
I answered: "I, too, dear one!
I, too, will die with you..."

This is a song of the final meeting.
I glanced at the house's dark frame.
Only bedroom candles burning
With an indifferent yellow flame.
Akhmatova's reputation continued to grow after her death, and it was in the year of her centenary that one of the greatest poetic monuments of the 20th century, Akhmatova's Requiem, was finally published in her homeland.

There is a museum devoted to Akhmatova at the Fountain House (more properly known as the Sheremetev Palace) on the Fontanka Embankment, where Akhmatova lived from the mid 1920s until 1952.


Anna Akhmatova: Poems (1983)
Anno Domini MCMXXI (1922) - rus
Evening (1912) - rus
Plantain (1921)
Poems of Akhmatova (1967)
Rosary (1914)
Selected Poems (1976)
Selected Poems (1989)
The Complete Poems of Anna Akhmatova (1990)
Twenty Poems of Anna Akhmatova (1985)
White Flock (1914)

She translated the Collected Works of Rabindranath Tagore in 8 volumes, into Russian. A monumental task for anyone.

Chinghiz Aitmatov


Aitmatov's parents were civil servants in Sheker. The name Chingiz is the same as the honorary title of Genghis Khan. In early childhood he wandered as a nomad with his family, as the Kyrgyz people did at the time. In 1937 his father was charged with "bourgeois nationalism" in Moscow, arrested and executed.

Aitmatov lived at a time when Kyrgyzstan was being transformed from one of the most remote lands of the Russian Empire to a republic of the USSR. The future author studied at a Soviet school in Sheker. He also worked from an early age. At fourteen he was an assistant to the Secretary at the Village Soviet. He later held jobs as a tax collector, a loader, an engineer's assistant and continued with many other types of work.

In 1946 he began studying at the Animal Husbandry Division of the Kirghiz Agricultural Institute in Frunze, but later switched to literary studies at the Maxim Gorky Literature Institute in Moscow, where he lived from 1956 to 1958. For the next eight years he worked for Pravda. His first two publications appeared in 1952 in Russian: The Newspaper Boy Dziuio and Ašym. His first work published in Kyrgyz was Ak Ğaan (White Rain) in 1954, and his well known work Jamila (Ğamijla; variants: Dzhamila, Jamilya) appeared in 1958. 1980 saw his first novel The Day Lasts More than a Hundred Years; his next significant novel, The Scaffold was published in 1988. The Day Lasts More than a Hundred Years and other writings were translated into several languages.


Chinghiz Aitmatov belongs to the post-war generation of writers. His output before Jamilya  was not significant, a few short stories and a short novel called Face to Face. But it was Jamilya  that came to prove the author's work. Louis Aragon described the novellete as the world's most beautiful love story, raising it even above Rudyard Kipling's World's Most Beautiful Love Story. Aitmatov's representative works also include the short novels Farewell, Gulsary!, The White Ship, The Day Lasts More Than a Hundred Years, and The Scaffold.

Aitmatov was honoured in 1963 with the Lenin Prize for Jamilya and later he was awarded a State prize for Farewell, Gulsary!. Aitmatov's art was glorified by admirers . Even critics of Aitmatov mentioned high quality of his novels.

Aitmatov's work has some elements that are unique specifically to his creative process. He is very close to mythology, not in the ancient sense of it -- rather, he tries to recreate and synthesize mythology in the context of contemporary life. This is prevalent in his work; in every story he refers to a myth, a legend, or a folktale. In The Day Lasts More Than a Hundred Years a poetic legend about a young captive turned into a mankurt serves a tragic allegory and becomes a significant symbolic expression of the philosophy of the novel.

A second aspect of Aitmatov's writing is his ultimate closeness to our "little brothers" the animals, for their and our lives are intimately and inseparably connected. The two center characters of Farewell, Gulsary! are a man and his stallion. A camel plays a prominent role in The Day Lasts More Than a Hundred Years; one of the key turns of the novel which decides the fate of the main character is narrated through the story of the camel's rut and riot. The Scaffold starts off and finishes with the story of a wolf pack and the great wolf-mother Akbara and her cub; human lives enter the narrative but interweave with the lives of the wolves.

Political career

In addition to his literary work, Chinghiz Aitmatov is the Kyrgyz ambassador to the European Union, NATO, UNESCO and the Benelux countries. He is also the father of former Kyrgyz foreign minister, Askar Aitmatov.

D o r i s L e s s i n g

Doris Lessing was born Doris May Tayler in Persia (now Iran) on October 22, 1919. Both of her parents were British: her father, who had been crippled in World War I, was a clerk in the Imperial Bank of Persia; her mother had been a nurse. In 1925, lured by the promise of getting rich through maize farming, the family moved to the British colony in Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). Doris's mother adapted to the rough life in the settlement, energetically trying to reproduce what was, in her view, a civilized, Edwardian life among savages; but her father did not, and the thousand-odd acres of bush he had bought failed to yield the promised wealth.
Lessing has described her childhood as an uneven mix of some pleasure and much pain. The natural world, which she explored with her brother, Harry, was one retreat from an otherwise miserable existence. Her mother, obsessed with raising a proper daughter, enforced a rigid system of rules and hygiene at home, then installed Doris in a convent school, where nuns terrified their charges with stories of hell and damnation. Lessing was later sent to an all-girls high school in the capital of Salisbury, from which she soon dropped out. She was thirteen; and it was the end of her formal education.

But like other women writers from southern African who did not graduate from high school (such as Olive Schreiner and Nadine Gordimer), Lessing made herself into a self-educated intellectual. She recently commented that unhappy childhoods seem to produce fiction writers. "Yes, I think that is true. Though it wasn't apparent to me then. Of course, I wasn't thinking in terms of being a writer then - I was just thinking about how to escape, all the time." The parcels of books ordered from London fed her imagination, laying out other worlds to escape into. Lessing's early reading included Dickens, Scott, Stevenson, Kipling; later she discovered D.H. Lawrence, Stendhal, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky. Bedtime stories also nurtured her youth: her mother told them to the children and Doris herself kept her younger brother awake, spinning out tales. Doris's early years were also spent absorbing her fathers bitter memories of World War I, taking them in as a kind of "poison." "We are all of us made by war," Lessing has written, "twisted and warped by war, but we seem to forget it."

In flight from her mother, Lessing left home when she was fifteen and took a job as a nursemaid. Her employer gave her books on politics and sociology to read, while his brother-in-law crept into her bed at night and gave her inept kisses. During that time she was, Lessing has written, "in a fever of erotic longing." Frustrated by her backward suitor, she indulged in elaborate romantic fantasies. She was also writing stories, and sold two to magazines in South Africa.

Lessing's life has been a challenge to her belief that people cannot resist the currents of their time, as she fought against the biological and cultural imperatives that fated her to sink without a murmur into marriage and motherhood. "There is a whole generation of women," she has said, speaking of her mother's era, "and it was as if their lives came to a stop when they had children. Most of them got pretty neurotic - because, I think, of the contrast between what they were taught at school they were capable of being and what actually happened to them." Lessing believes that she was freer than most people because she became a writer. For her, writing is a process of "setting at a distance," taking the "raw, the individual, the uncriticized, the unexamined, into the realm of the general."

In 1937 she moved to Salisbury, where she worked as a telephone operator for a year. At nineteen, she married Frank Wisdom, and had two children. A few years later, feeling trapped in a persona that she feared would destroy her, she left her family, remaining in Salisbury. Soon she was drawn to the like-minded members of the Left Book Club, a group of Communists "who read everything, and who did not think it remarkable to read." Gottfried Lessing was a central member of the group; shortly after she joined, they married and had a son.

During the postwar years, Lessing became increasingly disillusioned with the Communist movement, which she left altogether in 1954. By 1949, Lessing had moved to London with her young son. That year, she also published her first novel, The Grass Is Singing, and began her career as a professional writer.

Lessing's fiction is deeply autobiographical, much of it emerging out of her experiences in Africa. Drawing upon her childhood memories and her serious engagement with politics and social concerns, Lessing has written about the clash of cultures, the gross injustices of racial inequality, the struggle among opposing elements within an individuals own personality, and the conflict between the individual conscience and the collective good. Her stories and novellas set in Africa, published during the fifties and early sixties, decry the dispossession of black Africans by white colonials, and expose the sterility of the white culture in southern Africa. In 1956, in response to Lessing's courageous outspokenness, she was declared a prohibited alien in both Southern Rhodesia and South Africa.

Over the years, Lessing has attempted to accommodate what she admires in the novels of the nineteenth century - their "climate of ethical judgement" - to the demands of twentieth-century ideas about consciousness and time. After writing the Children of Violence series (1951-1959), a formally conventional bildungsroman (novel of education) about the growth in consciousness of her heroine, Martha Quest, Lessing broke new ground with The Golden Notebook (1962), a daring narrative experiment, in which the multiple selves of a contemporary woman are rendered in astonishing depth and detail. Anna Wulf, like Lessing herself, strives for ruthless honesty as she aims to free herself from the chaos, emotional numbness, and hypocrisy afflicting her generation.

Attacked for being "unfeminine" in her depiction of female anger and aggression, Lessing responded, "Apparently what many women were thinking, feeling, experiencing came as a great surprise." As at least one early critic noticed, Anna Wulf "tries to live with the freedom of a man" - a point Lessing seems to confirm: "These attitudes in male writers were taken for granted, accepted as sound philosophical bases, as quite normal, certainly not as woman-hating, aggressive, or neurotic."

In the 1970s and 1980s, Lessing began to explore more fully the quasi-mystical insight Anna Wulf seems to reach by the end of The Golden Notebook. Her "inner-space fiction" deals with cosmic fantasies (Briefing for a Descent into Hell, 1971), dreamscapes and other dimensions (Memoirs of a Survivor, 1974), and science fiction probings of higher planes of existence (Canopus in Argos: Archives, 1979-1983). These reflect Lessing's interest, since the 1960s, in Idries Shah, whose writings on Sufi mysticism stress the evolution of consciousness and the belief that individual liberation can come about only if people understand the link between their own fates and the fate of society.

Lessing's other novels include The Good Terrorist (1985) and The Fifth Child (1988); she also published two novels under the pseudonym Jane Somers (The Diary of a Good Neighbour, 1983 and If the Old Could..., 1984). In addition, she has written several nonfiction works, including books about cats, a love since childhood. Under My Skin: Volume One of My Autobiography, to 1949 appeared in 1995 and received the James Tait Black Prize for best biography.

Addenda (by Jan Hanford)

In June 1995 she received an Honorary Degree from Harvard University. Also in 1995, she visited South Africa to see her daughter and grandchildren, and to promote her autobiography. It was her first visit since being forcibly removed in 1956 for her political views. Ironically, she is welcomed now as a writer acclaimed for the very topics for which she was banished 40 years ago.

She collaborated with illustrator Charlie Adlard to create the unique and unusual graphic novel, Playing the Game. After being out of print in the U.S. for more than 30 years, Going Home and In Pursuit of the English were republished by HarperCollins in 1996. These two fascinating and important books give rare insight into Mrs. Lessing's personality, life and views.

In 1996, her first novel in 7 years, Love Again, was published by HarperCollins. She did not make any personal appearances to promote the book. In an interview she describes the frustration she felt during a 14-week worldwide tour to promote her autobiography: "I told my publishers it would be far more useful for everyone if I stayed at home, writing another book. But they wouldn't listen. This time round I stamped my little foot and said I would not move from my house and would do only one interview." And the honors keep on coming: she was on the list of nominees for the Nobel Prize for Literature and Britain's Writer's Guild Award for Fiction in 1996.

Late in the year, HarperCollins published Play with A Tiger and Other Plays, a compilation of 3 of her plays: Play with a Tiger, The Singing Door and Each His Own Wilderness. In an unexplained move, HarperCollins only published this volume in the U.K. and it is not available in the U.S., to the disappointment of her North American readers.

In 1997 she collaborated with Philip Glass for the second time, providing the libretto for the opera "The Marriages Between Zones Three, Four and Five" which premiered in Heidelberg, Germany in May. Walking in the Shade, the anxiously awaited second volume of her autobiography, was published in October and was nominated for the 1997 National Book Critics Circle Award in the biography/autobiography category. This volume documents her arrival in England in 1949 and takes us up to the publication of The Golden Notebook. This is the final volume of her autobiography, she will not be writing a third volume.

Her new novel, titled "Mara and Dann", was been published in the U.S in January 1999 and in the U.K. in April 1999. In an interview in the London Daily Telegraph she said, "I adore writing it. I'll be so sad when it's finished. It's freed my mind." 1999 also saw her first experience on-line, with a chat at Barnes & Noble (transcript). In May 1999 she will be presented with the XI Annual International Catalunya Award, an award by the government of Catalunya.

December 31 1999: In the U.K.'s last Honours List before the new Millennium, Doris Lessing was appointed a Companion of Honour, an exclusive order for those who have done "conspicuous national service." She revealed she had turned down the offer of becoming a Dame of the British Empire because there is no British Empire. Being a Companion of Honour, she explained, means "you're not called anything - and it's not demanding. I like that". Being a Dame was "a bit pantomimey". The list was selected by the Labor Party government to honor people in all walks of life for their contributions to their professions and to charity. It was officially bestowed by Queen Elizabeth II.

In January, 2000 the National Portrait Gallery in London unveiled Leonard McComb's portrait of Doris Lessing.

Ben, in the World, the sequel to The Fifth Child was published in Spring 2000 (U.K.) and Summer 2000 (U.S.).

In 2001 she was awarded the Prince of Asturias Prize in Literature, one of Spain's most important distinctions, for her brilliant literary works in defense of freedom and Third World causes. She also received the David Cohen British Literature Prize.

In 2005 she was on the shortlist for the first Man Booker International Prize.

In 2007 she received the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Her most recent novel is The Cleft.
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