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Energy of Delusion: A Book on Plot (Russian Literature)
Synopses & Reviews
One of the greatest literary minds of the twentieth century, Viktor Shklovsky writes the critical equivalent of what Ross Chambers calls "loiterature"--writing that roams, playfully digresses, moving freely between the literary work and the world. In Energy of Delusion, a masterpiece that Shklovsky worked on over thirty years, he turns his unique critical sensibility to Tolstoy's life and novels, applying the famous "formalist method" he invented in the 1920s to Tolstoy's massive body of work, and at the same time taking Tolstoy (as well as Boccaccio, Pushkin, Chekhov, Dostoevsky, and Turgenev) as a springboard to consider the devices of literature--how novels work and what they do.
Energy of Delusion provides contemporary readers with a new way of thinking about how great literature is written (and how great criticism might be) that is as timely today as ever.
"Just in time for the publication of two new translations of War and Peace comes the first publication in English of what is arguably the greatest critical work on Tostoy's masterpiece. Soviet critic Shklovsky (1893-1984) is the author of Third Factory and many other critical books. (They are slowly being translated into English and released by Dalkey Archive.) All are written in Shklovsky's inimitable, signature digressive style, but none perhaps has as grand a concentric development as this book, which radiates out from War and Peace and into Pushkin, Turgenev, the Opayaz period, Anna Karenina, the Neva, Dostoevsky, Shakespeare, the Bible, Chekhov, Picasso, and many, many more figures, books, rivers, places, things. The result is a deep, and deeply satisfying, meditation on the form of the novel, and on what reading novels 'now' (Shklovsky finished the book at the end of his life) is like. Shklovsky takes his title from a letter of Tolstoy's regarding 'an earthly, spontaneous energy that's impossible to invent'; he has that energy in spades here, delightful even if one has been unable to finish Tolstoy's novel." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
Book News Annotation:
This confessional manifesto by one of the leading lights in Russian formalism took a decade and a half for him to write and even now we are not sure if he was entirely pleased by the result. Shklovskii took the genre of biography seriously, and his portraits of Tolstoy, Boccaccio, Cervantes, Pushking, Chekhov, Dostoyevski, Sterne, Twain and other novelists reflect his concerns about how the artist is or is not the work, but many will be most drawn to his critical essays as well, many of which are written in fictional forms and reflect rather than pronounce his literary theories. The result is a remarkable read that works organically rather than as a series of declarative paragraphs; Shklovskii's ideas about narrative theory and plot seem to grow as he writes. If nothing else, more in the West will now seek out Shklovskii's criticism and his own writing, to their benefit. Annotation ©2008 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
"Perhaps because he is such an unlikely Tolstoyan, Viktor Shklovsky's writing on Tolstoy is always absorbing and often brilliant."--Russian Review
About 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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