Andrei Sinyavsky (sihn-YAHV-skee) is the author of an important book-length essay, Chto takoe sotsialisticheskii realizm (1959; On Socialist Realism, 1960), published under the pseudonym Abram Tertz, in which he maintains with some humor that realism is not the proper medium for the mythmaking inherent in a communist society. Because he believed that the grandiose neoclassicism inherited from eighteenth century Russian literature had also become inadequate, Sinyavsky proposed that the more appropriate genre would be fantasy, and he himself became a writer of fantasy. His collection Fantasticheskie povesti (1961; Fantastic Stories, 1963; also known as The Icicle, and Other Stories, 1963), including a novella and several short stories, is surrealistic, an excursion into the literature of the absurd. Mysli vrasplokh (1966; as Tertz; Unguarded Thoughts, 1972), a collection of aphorisms, came as a revelation to Sinyavsky’s Western readers, disclosing for the first time his profound faith as a Russian Orthodox believer.
In addition to these works, all of which were signed with the pen name Abram Tertz and published abroad before his arrest, Sinyavsky has published a number of important critical studies, including an introductory essay to Boris Pasternak’s Stikhotvoreniya i poemy (1965, 1976; verses and poems); an analysis of the nineteenth century writer Nikolai Gogol, V teni Gogolya (1975; in the shadow of Gogol); and a book on the poet Alexander Pushkin, Progulki s Pushkinym (1975; walks with Pushkin). Sinyavsky’s Golos iz khora (1973; A Voice from the Chorus, 1976), largely composed of letters that he wrote to his wife during his six years in a labor camp, is in the tradition initiated by Fyodor Dostoevski and continued by such twentieth century writers as Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. The essay “Literaturnii protess v Rossii” (literary process in Russia), published in the dissident journal Kontinent in 1976, is both a savage analysis of the Soviet mind and an extraordinary literary manifesto that transcends its occasion. Finally, Sinyavsky’s Little Jinx, with the Yiddish word tsores in the original title, serves as a reminder that he identifies with Jews as alienated people outside the normal parameters of Soviet existence.