Breaking Free from Death: The Art of Being a Successful Russian Writer

Breaking Free from Death: The Art of Being a Successful Russian Writer

from 29.95

Galina Rylkova

ISBN: 9781644692646 (hardback), 9781644692660 (paperback)
Pages: approx. 200 pp.
Publication Date: March 2020


Breaking Free from Death examines how Russian writers respond to the burden of living with anxieties about their creative outputs, and, ultimately, about their own inevitable finitude. What contributes to creative death are not just crippling diseases that make man defenseless in the face of death, and not just the arguably universal fear of death but, equally important, the innumerable impositions on the part of various outsiders. Many conflicts in the lives of Rylkova’s subjects arose not from their opposition to the existing political regimes but from their interactions with like-minded and supporting intellectuals, friends, and relatives. The book describes the lives and choices that concrete individuals and—by extrapolation—their literary characters must face in order to preserve their singularity and integrity while attempting to achieve fame, greatness, and success.

Galina Rylkova is Associate Professor of Russian Studies at the University of Florida. She is the author of The Archaeology of Anxiety: The Russian Silver Age and Its Legacy (2007). Her research interests include psychology of creative personality, biography, and Russian theater.

Table of Contents


Prologue: Breaking Free from Death

Part One: Beginnings and Endings

1. Leo Tolstoy and the Privilege of Formidable Hypochondria
2. In Chertkov’s Grip
3. Uncle Vanya: The Drama of Sustainability
4. “Homo Sachaliensis”: Chekhov’s “Character” as a Strategy
5. The Steppe as a Story of Humble and Spectacular Beginnings

Part Two: Transcending Death

6. Reading Chekhov through Meyerhold’s Eyes
7. Living with Tolstoy and Dying with Chekhov: Ivan Bunin’s Liberation of Tolstoy (1937) and About Chekhov (1953) as Two Modes of Auto/Biographical Writing
8. “There is a way out”: The Cherry Orchard in the Twenty-First Century
9. A Boring Story: Chekhov’s Trip to Germany in 1904

Epilogue: Oyster Fever: Chekhov and Turgenev