Chapaev and his Comrades: War and the Russian Literary Hero Across the Twentieth Century

Chapaev and his Comrades: War and the Russian Literary Hero Across the Twentieth Century

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Angela Brintlinger

Series: Cultural Revolutions: Russia in the Twentieth Century
ISBN: 9781618112026 (hardcover), 9781618118226 (paperback)
Pages: 288 pp.
Publication Date: December 2012

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 Across the twentieth century, the Russian literary hero remained central to Russian fiction and frequently “battled” one enemy or another, whether on the battlefield or on a civilian front. War was the experience of the Russian people, and it became a dominant trope to represent the Soviet experience in literature as well as other areas of cultural life. This book traces those war experiences, memories, tropes, and metaphors in the literature of the Soviet and post-Soviet period, examining the work of Dmitry Furmanov, Fyodor Gladkov, Alexander Tvardovsky, Emmanuil Kazakevich, Vera Panova, Viktor Nekrasov, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Vladimir Voinovich, Sergei Dovlatov, Vladimir Makanin, Viktor Astafiev, Viktor Pelevin, and Vasily Aksyonov. These authors represented official Soviet literature and underground or dissident literature; they fell into and out of favor, were exiled and returned to Russia, died at home and abroad. Most importantly, they were all touched by war, and they reacted to the state of war in their literary works.

Angela Brintlinger (PhD University of Wisconsin) is an associate professor and the graduate studies chair of the Department of Slavic and East European Languages and Literatures at Ohio State University. She is the author of Writing a Usable Past: Russian Literary Culture 1917-1937 (2000) and coauthor, with Ilya Vinitsky, of Madness and the Mad in Russian Culture (2007).

Brintlinger presents a critical “defamiliarization” to stimulate another generation of readers and scholars to reexamine the tragic history of twentieth-century Russia and read its Salient writers from a new perspective. . . . Brintlinger’s introduction not only introduces the diverse set of writers, issues, and thematic priorities of her main text. It also establishes her own voice as thoughtful, resourceful, scholarly, and well informed about the vast legacy of Russian war literature. . . . Bringing to the task a broad scholarly, philosophical vision and sharp, discrete critical tools, Brintlinger has produced a formidable work. It should serve as an indispensible guide to the literature of the Russian ‘short twentieth century’ (1917—1991).
— Byron Lindsey, University of New Mexico, in the Slavic and East European Journal, 58.1 (Spring 2014)
Brintlinger has made a valuable contribution to the study of twentieth-century Russian literature by bringing the war hero out of the Socialist Realist ghetto, showing the nuances which reveal the complexities of supposedly ‘official’ texts, as well as the multiple allusions which connect them with ‘unofficial’ texts which may parody or ridicule them, but by doing so acknowledge their claim on the cultural imagination.
— Katharine Hodgson, Department of Modern Languages, University of Exeter, in the Slavonic & East European Review Vol. 92, No. 2, April 2014
Clearly written, Chapaev and his Comrades is invaluable to scholars of war culture and scholars of Soviet and post-Soviet literature. . . . this volume contributes greatly to the body of scholarship addressing the field of Soviet war literature, an understudied field in the West.
— Adrienne M. Harris, Baylor University; review published in The Russian Review, October 2013 (Vol. 72, No. 4)
Chapaev and His Comrades represents an important contribution to an already robust body of scholarly works on the theme of the hero in Russian literature, its specific merit being that it provides us with a comprehensive and nuanced reading of how Soviet and post-Soviet identity shaped itself around a century of almost constant war. . . . Brintlinger’s monograph is an engaging one, and it adds significantly to our understanding of how Russian identity was constructed by the major conflicts of the twentieth century. Chapaev and His Comrades will be of interest to Slavists but also to those interested in peace and conflict studies.
— Keith Livers (University of Texas, Austin), in the Slavic Review, vol. 73, no. 4 (Winter 2014)

Table of Contents

Introduction. War and the Hero in the Russian Twentieth Century 

Part I

Chapter One. Born in the Crucible of War: Chapaev and His Socialist Realist Comrades

Part II

Chapter Two. The Peasant-Soldier: Alexander Tvardovsky and a New Chapaev
Chapter Three. Eyewitnesses to Heroism: Emmanuil Kazakevich and Vera Panova
Chapter Four. Retreat: Viktor Nekrasov and the Truth of the Trenches

Part III

Chapter Five. From World War to Cold War: Tvardovsky, Solzhenitsyn, Voinovich, and Heroism in the Post-Stalin Period
Chapter Six. Antiheroes in a Post-heroic Age: Sergei Dovlatov, Vladimir Makanin, and Cold War Malaise

Part IV

Chapter Seven. Revisiting War: Viktor Astafiev and the Boys of ’24
Chapter Eight. Revisiting Chapaev: Viktor Pelevin and Vasily Aksyonov