Bowstring - On the Dissimilarity of the Similar

Overview

"Myths do not flow through the pipes of history," writes Viktor Shklovsky, "they change and splinter, they contrast and refute one another. The similar turns out to be dissimilar." Published in Moscow in 1970 and appearing in English translation for the first time, Bowstring is a seminal work, in which Shklovsky redefines estrangement (ostranenie) as a device of the literary comparatist -- the "person out of place," who has turned up in a period where he does not belong and who must search for meaning with a strained sensibility. As Shklovsky

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Overview

"Myths do not flow through the pipes of history," writes Viktor Shklovsky, "they change and splinter, they contrast and refute one another. The similar turns out to be dissimilar." Published in Moscow in 1970 and appearing in English translation for the first time, Bowstring is a seminal work, in which Shklovsky redefines estrangement (ostranenie) as a device of the literary comparatist -- the "person out of place," who has turned up in a period where he does not belong and who must search for meaning with a strained sensibility. As Shklovsky experiments with different genres, employing a technique of textual montage, he mixes autobiography, biography, memoir, history, and literary criticism in a book that boldly refutes mechanical repetition, mediocrity, and cultural parochialism in the name of art that dares to be different and innovative. Bowstring is a brilliant and provocative book that spares no one in its unapologetic project to free art from conventionality.

Dalkey Archive Press

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Available in English for the first time, this title, first published in 1970, is another impressive addition to the Shklovsky oeuvre. Shklovsky (1893–1984), a giant of Russian Formalism, (Theory of Prose), focuses on innovation in art—what it means and requires. To Shklovsky, an "innovator is a guide who changes the tracks but who also knows the old pathways," and he surveys history and the present moment to identify those crucial points where innovation occurs, when "the similar turns out to be dissimilar." He revisits and revises his concept of ostranenie (estrangement), contemplates the work of artists from Tolstoy to Stravinsky, examines the structures of myths and fairy tales. He also revives the work of such colleagues as Boris Eichenbaum and Yuri Tynjanov, so that the book becomes both an homage to and a collaboration with his friends and muses. His mind moves like a lasso, pulling literature, film, painting, architecture, music, and characters as diverse as Charlie Chaplin and Albert Einstein into his argument, so that the book becomes a place of reckoning and revision, crammed with life and a life's worth of thought. Shklovsky's prose is not strictly academic, nor is it immediately accessible. Like his previous books, it requires patience and surrender, and for thinkers and lovers of language, the devoted or the curious, the surrender is, once again, worth it. (July)
Lyn Hejinian
“The works of Viktor Shklovsky are so appropriate to our contemporary situation as to seem to have been written for us. His writings do precisely what he has said it is art’s goal to do: they ‘restore . . . sensation of the world,’ they ‘resurrect things and kill pessimism.’”
Guy Davenport - National Review
“Shklovsky is a disciple worthy of Sterne. He has appropriated the device of infinitely delayed event, of the digression helplessly promising to return to the point, and of disguising his superbly controlled art with a breezy nonchalance. But it is not really Sterne that Shklovsky sounds like: it is an intellectual and witty Hemingway.”
Michael Dirda - Washington Post
“A rambling, digressive stylist, Shklovsky throws off brilliant aperçus on every page. . . . Like an architect’s blueprint, [he] lays bare the joists and studs that hold up the house of fiction.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781564784254
  • Publisher: Dalkey Archive Press
  • Publication date: 7/7/2011
  • Series: Russian Literature Series
  • Pages: 456
  • Sales rank: 982,708
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Viktor Shklovsky (1893-1984) was a leading figure in the Russian Formalist movement of the 1920s and had a profound effect on twentieth-century Russian literature. Several of his books have been translated into English, including Zoo, or Letters Not about Love, Third Factory, Theory of Prose, A Sentimental Journey, Energy of Delusion, and Literature and Cinematography, and Bowstring.

Shushan Avagyan translates from Armenian and Russian. She is the translator of Viktor Shklovsky’s Bowstring: On the Dissimilarity of the Similar, and other works available from Dalkey Archive Press.

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