Form and Content

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

In A Precocious Autobiography, the poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko gives an account of the first three decades of his life—hence, the title “precocious”—before most people, especially artistic creators, go through the most productive part of their life. The reason for the poet’s premature effort is undoubtedly his conviction that the experiences of his early years, coupled with important changes in the life of his country (the death of Joseph Stalin and the emergence of the postwar generation), are worth telling. He begins with the simple fact that both of his grandfathers were accused as “traitors” and “spies” and vanished in the concentration camps. His paternal great-grandfather was deported from Ukraine to Siberia for rebelling against his landlord. His maternal grandfather was born in Latvia. By stating that “revolution was the religion” of his family, Yevtushenko underscores the tragedy of the demise of his grandfathers, who were old revolutionaries.

The incompatibility of Yevtushenko’s parents—who met as students at the Geological Institute, married, but soon divorced—was another decisive factor in the poet’s life. He spent his childhood torn in his loyalty to his parents. This, along with the war, made his earliest years difficult, although he spent some happy days in his native Siberia, close to nature and to the simple, hardworking people. Yevtushenko grew up on the streets, fighting with his peers, doing poorly...

(The entire section is 477 words.)