A Precocious Autobiography Essay - Critical Context

Yevgeny Yevtushenko

Critical Context

A Precocious Autobiography occupies a modest place in Yevtushenko’s literary opus, as he is primarily a poet. In other ways, however, it is an important work for him, as well as for Russian literature. The autobiography is a declaration of the poet’s readiness to join the struggle for the truth and for the rejuvenation of his country’s spirit. By making the declaration strongly personal, Yevtushenko elevates the struggle to the highest level of commitment. His call for action gains in significance within the historical context of a post-Stalin Soviet Union, at the time when it was dangerous to be brave and bold.

The autobiography offers glimpses of the literary development of one of the leading Russian poets of the second half of the twentieth century. The cameo appearance of Boris Pasternak is also very illuminating; in a very few strokes, Yevtushenko paints the essential Pasternak. The author’s early patrons, Nikolay Tarasov and Volodya Barlas, receive their just reward for seeing in Yevtushenko a poet when even he was not sure of his poetic future. His first wife, Bella Akhmadulina, demonstrates the breadth and strength of the movement of young Soviets toward a better life.

Aside from its literary merits as a lively and heartfelt narrative, A Precocious Autobiography remains a document of the spiritual and political awakening of an entire nation, especially of its poets and intellectuals, after a decades-long winter night. The book also augurs well for the future of the poet’s country and its literature.