Synopses & Reviews
Barbara Walker examines the Russian literary circle, a feature of Russian intellectual and cultural life from tsarist times into the early Soviet period, through the life story of one of its liveliest and most adored figures, the poet Maximilian Voloshin (1877-1932). From 1911 until his death, Voloshin led a circle in the Crimean village of Koktebel' that was a haven for such literary luminaries as Marina Tsvetaeva, Nikolai Gumilev, and Osip Mandelstam. Drawing upon the anthropological theories of Victor Turner, Walker depicts the literary circle of late Imperial Russia as a contradictory mix of idealism and "communitas," on the one hand, and traditional Russian patterns of patronage and networking, on the other. While detailing the colorful history of Voloshinov's circle in the pre- and postrevolutionary decades, the book demonstrates that the literary circle and its leaders played a key role in integrating the intelligentsia into the emerging ethos of the Soviet state.
Though he held high promise as a second Pushkin, Voloshin was a marginal figure in the Russian symbolist movement when compared to poets Andrei Belyi, Aleksandr Blok, Valerii Briusov, and Vyacheslav Ivanov. Walker seeks to establish Voloshin's place in and contribution to the culture and society of the Russian literary intelligentsia, in which he had his own literary circle during the revolutionary years of 1917 and after. Historians will find Walker's informative account of the rise and evolution of the Russian intelligentsia and its numerous mutations especially illuminating. She argues that Voloshin offered a vital and emotional intellectual haven for intellectuals and helped to nurture a new, more eclectic post-Symbolist generation, one that included writers such as Marina Tsvetaeva, Osip Mandelshtam, and Vladislav Khodasevich, among many others. Voloshin succeeded thanks to his leadership skills, magnetism and sensitivity, and spiritual guidance. Anatoli Vasilevich Lunacharsky, the Soviet Commissar for Enlightenment, helped prolong Voloshin's circle throughout the 1920s and until 1932, when all literary circles and groups were fully incorporated into the Soviet system and ultimately into the Union of Soviet Writers, which offered writers an attractive range of privileges for their ideological support. Summing Up: Recommended. Graduate and research collections.V. D. Barooshian, Wells College, Choice, October 2005
"Barbara Walker's excellent book is an extended gloss on Tsvetaeva's remark that Voloshin knew people. Like Tsvetaeva, Walker treats Voloshin not as a poet, but as a literary impresario, canny networker, and creative host. Voloshin called himself a peddler of ideas, Tsvetaeva records, but he was also a peddler of friends, one of whose vocations in life was to bring people together, to create encounters and destinies. The benign mentor evolved into a wily and skilful manipulator of his culture, a master of its microdynamics of power. So, Walker's book is not a biography, but rather a deeply rooted account of Voloshin's role in the internal development of the Russian intelligentsia at a time of lacerating political and cultural change.." --TLS Indiana University Press
"... this is a well-written, original, and stimulating study that will attract all interested in Voloshin and his era, not least through the inclusion of a number of well-chosen and extremely evocative photographs." --Christopher Read, University of Warwick, JOURNAL OF MODERN HISTORY, 80 (March 2008): Indiana University Press Indiana University Press
"... this compassionate and pioneering study of the social life of a poet much valued in Russia though little known in the West is certain to stimulate considerable thinking about Russian culture and society." --Jeffrey Brooks, Johns Hopkins University, American Historical Review, Vol. 111, Issue 2
"... This is an excellent book and a real contribution to scholarship.
The author, her mentors, and Indiana University Press have done us a great service for
which we should be grateful." --Sarah Pratt, University of Southern California, MODERNISM / MODERNITY, 13.1 (2006)
"Historians will find Walker's informative account of the rise and evolution of the Russian intelligentsia and its numerous mutations especially illuminating...." --Choice, October 2005 Indiana University Press
Explores the culture of the Russian literary circle through the life of one of its best loved leaders, the poet Maximilian Voloshin.
About the Author
Barbara Walker is Associate Professor of History at the University of Nevada, Reno.
Table of Contents
List of illustrations
An Introduction in Three Parts
Chapter 1. Voloshin's Social and Cultural Origins
Chapter 2. The Russian Symbolists and Their Circles
Chapter 3. Voloshin and the Modernist Problem of the Ugly Poetess
Chapter 4. The Koktebel' Dacha Circle
Chapter 5. Insiders and Outsiders, Gossip and Mythology: From Communitas toward Network Node
Chapter 6. Voloshin Carves Power out of Fear
Chapter 7. Voloshin Carves Power, Cont'd, and the Broader Context and Implications of his Activities
Chapter 8. Inside Voloshin's Soviet Circle (and Beyond): Persistence of Structure, Preservation of Anti-structure
Chapter 9. Collapse of a Patronage Network and Voloshin's Death