"An interesting and illuminating book about socially important but critically neglected areas of modern Russian culture: the miniature stories published in newspapers and comedies, chansons, and stage (estrada) monologuesvaluable sources of cultural information previously unknown to Western readers."Lev Loseff, Dartmouth College
"The first attempt to look at the development of Soviet literary culture . . . in the sixties and the seventies . . . a penetrating literary analysis."Emil Draitser, Hunter College
Vishevsky here writes about the popular culture of the Soviet intellectual during the years of post-Stalinist thaw. Hope and faith were in short supply among Soviet liberals by the late 1960s. Vishevsky cites the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia as a formal landmark inaugurating the period in which irony was propelled to the forefront of the literary and cultural scene. Irony was the direct product of disillusion and despair over the apparent abandonment of the promising post-thaw ideals and values. This period that ended with the beginning of perestroika and glasnost, Vishevsky believes, also was the incubator of many processes now prevalent in the country's literature and culture.
Although censorship kept this ironic worldview off the main stage of Soviet literature, it surfaced in peripheral formsstand-up comedy, songs of the "bards," short stories in periodicals and newspapers, radio and TV shows, local cinematography, regional literatureworks that friends discussed over kitchen tables, "where most heated debates usually [took] place in the Soviet Union."
A major part of the book is devoted to a corpus of writing never before treated critically: the ironic stories that appeared in the late 1960s and 1970s in Soviet humor periodicals and in the humor pages of newspapers and magazines. These stories, each three to ten typed pages, were presumably tolerated by the Soviet authorities because of their brevity and their often unassuming placement in the back pages of magazines. Vishevsky's book includes an anthology of such stories, appearing here for the first time in English.
The stories constitute a new subgenre in the history of Russian literaturethe ironic short story. The examples collected here include several by Aksyonov, Bitov, and the author himself.
Anatoly Vishevsky, assistant professor of Russian at Washington University in St. Louis, is the author of short fiction as well as scholarly articles in the field of Russian literature.