Aleksandr Blok: A Life

Overview

Aleksandr Blok (1880-1921), the leader of the Symbolist Movement, was one of Russia's greatest modern poets. An inspiration to many modern Russian poets well-known in the West, most notably Pasternak, this account of his life is one of the few books on this important poet available in English. A member of the Russian aristocracy, Blok lived through a period in which a traditional world was being destroyed and a new, often alarming utopia was emerging. After years of expressing disdain for politics, he became an ...
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Overview

Aleksandr Blok (1880-1921), the leader of the Symbolist Movement, was one of Russia's greatest modern poets. An inspiration to many modern Russian poets well-known in the West, most notably Pasternak, this account of his life is one of the few books on this important poet available in English. A member of the Russian aristocracy, Blok lived through a period in which a traditional world was being destroyed and a new, often alarming utopia was emerging. After years of expressing disdain for politics, he became an enthusiastic supporter of the Revolution, changing from a detached observer to a committed servant of the Russian people. This change is reflected in the shift in his work away from his early poetic mysticism to the historical vision of his most famous poem, "The Twelve." This account of his life and his art, written by the novelist and autobiographer Nina Berberova, evokes the troubled world of the Russian intelligentsia, their illusions, and their disarray in the face of revolution. Blok's complicated emotional life, his passion for his art, and his public stature are conveyed with economy, elegance, and deep understanding.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This memoir by the St. Petersburg-born Berberova (1901-1993), a professor of Russian literature at Princeton University (The Italics Are Mine), will appeal most to those who are already familiar with her subjectintimately, at that. Only a couple of times does Berberova employ the first person. When Blok's life was coming to an end, she writes: "There were a dozen of us gathered around his death-bed." It is a shame Berberova didn't enliven her memoir with more such references. Instead, we are simply told that Blok is great, or his life became impossible. Although she provides some definitions and background information, she assumes we know much more than the nonspecialist would. As a result, Aleksandr Blok (1880- 1921), considered the greatest Russian poet of his age, second perhaps only to Pushkin, hardly comes alive on these pages, despite the author's adulation. And for all the background Berberova offers, she hardly mentions the four great contemporary Russian poets of this century who were strongly influenced by him: Akhmatova, Mandelstam, Pasternak and Tsvetaeva. (Oct.)
Library Journal
This short but intimate portrait of Blok (1880-1921) is an excellent example of biography as art. Berberova (The Italics Are Mine, LJ 4/15/92), who died in 1993, has eloquently depicted the life and times of the Symbolist movement's greatest poet. Though born to the aristocracy, Blok eventually espoused the ideals of the Russian Revolution and became one of the most prominent members of the early Soviet intelligentsia. Translator Marsack aptly calls this "an informal biography" and refers readers interested in a more comprehensive study to Avril Pyman's Life of Aleksandr Blok (1979). Despite its brevity, Berberova's observations of Blok and his milieusome of which are firsthandas well as the beauty of her prose make this an important addition to Blok scholarship. Highly recommended.Diane G. Premo, SILS, SUNY at Buffalo
Kirkus Reviews
Berberova's elegant and uncommon biography of the Russian poet Blok defies easy categorization and is a literary event in its own right.

Aleksandr Blok (18801921) was a leader of the Russian Symbolists at the turn of the century and ranks among the greatest modern Russian poets. Of particular interest are Blok's artistic and personal reactions to the revolutionary changes in Russian politics and society during his lifetime: his shift from poetic mysticism to a perception of life deeply colored by historical forces, and his astute predictions about Russia's bloody future. A major English-language biography, Avril Pyman's Life of Aleksandr Blok, appeared in 1979, and readers of his poetry who seek details of the life should still turn to that earlier work. Those more interested in the fin-de-si├Ęcle and revolutionary settings of Blok's creative genius will be well served by this new work. Berberova's essay is as much a portrait of Russian society as it is a story of Blok himself, and in the author's deft hand the two are palpably, convincingly linked. Part of the appeal of this biography is the author's lyrical and highly personal, empathetic voice. Berberova, who died in 1993, was both a professor of Russian literature at Princeton and the author of fiction and an autobiography (The Tattered Cloak, 1991, etc.). She lived until the age of 20 in Blok's St. Petersburg and moved in similar literary circles. As she poignantly relates here, Berberova was present at Blok's deathbed, and she offers a heartfelt interpretation of the poet's death: "We all felt it was the and of a life, the end of a city, the end of a world." Soon after his death, she fled Russia.

Aleksandr Blok: A Life is Berberova's profoundly moving posthumous homage to a poet, a city, and an era she knew intimately.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807614082
  • Publisher: Braziller, George Inc.
  • Publication date: 10/28/1996
  • Pages: 144
  • Product dimensions: 5.63 (w) x 8.76 (h) x 0.66 (d)

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