Olesha, Yuri (Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)
Yuri Olesha 1899-1960
(Also transliterated as Yuri Olyesha, Iurii Karlovich Olesha, Jurij Oleša, and Iurii Olesha) Russian fiction writer, playwright, and essayist.
The following entry presents criticism of Olesha's works from 1977 to 2001. For discussion of Olesha's career prior to 1977, see CLC, Volume 8.
Olesha's social satires and short stories exhibit imagination and intelligence. After an initial period of favor with the post-Revolutionary Stalinist government in the former Soviet Union, he was eventually declared a danger to the state and was arrested and forced to do hard labor. He has been praised by critics, however, for his distinctive literary style and particularly for introducing the element of slapstick into Russian literature. Olesha is best-known for his novel Zavist' (1927; Envy,) a parody of life under Stalinism.
Olesha was born on March 3, 1899, in Elisavetgrad (now Kirovograd), Ukraine, Russia. His early career was as a journalist for a railway newspaper, Gudok. After the Russian Revolution, Olesha at first found favor with the government of Josef Stalin. His novel Envy was a humorous look at the existing order. However, Olesha was eventually arrested as an enemy of the state after Tri tolstyaka (1928; The Three Fat Men), another novel of social criticism and a number of short stories and works in other genres were published. As a result, most of his serious literary output ended by the mid-1930s. After this time he produced theatrical adaptations of novels and children's puppet plays but never again returned to his place of literary prominence. He did, however, deliver a notable speech on artistic individualism at the First Soviet Writers' Congress in 1934. He died in Moscow, U.S.S.R., on May 10, 1960, at a time when critics were just beginning to rediscover his work.
Olesha's first novel, Envy, parodied the Stalinist regime, presenting a world devoid of human feelings, but with a comic touch reminiscent of Charlie Chaplin films. Another social critique was his novel The Three Fat Men, a fairy-tale version of the Russian Revolution. During the 1930s Olesha also produced a number of short stories. A play, Spisok blagodeianii (1931; A List of Assets), concerned an actress who becomes disillusioned with the decadence of the West. In spite of Olesha's forays into anti-Westernism, however, his work was mostly suppressed by the government. A 1934 screenplay, Strogii iunosha (translates as A Strict Young Man), was banned. After this time he was reduced to adapting novels for the stage and producing children's puppet plays. Posthumous publication of his short stories, new editions of his novels, and a volume of his reminiscences and correspondence, Ni dnia bez strochki (1965; No Day Without a Line), helped to bring Olesha's work back to public attention.
Olesha's Envy was initially praised by Soviet critics as a condemnation of bourgeois mentality. In time, however, Olesha's novels and stories were criticized as too “naturalist,” “formalist,” or “cosmopolitan”—in sum, as inimical to the collective ideals of the Soviet system. Following the death of Stalin in 1953, some of Olesha's works were gradually resurrected, albeit with caveats by establishment critics that he did not really mean some of his implied criticisms of the existing order. After Olesha's works began to be more available in the West in the 1960s and 1970s, modern critics approached his works in a variety of ways. Some praised his imagery and style while noting his ambivalence toward the ideals of Communism. Some compared him with other authors of his time, such as Marcel Proust, T. S. Eliot, and H. G. Wells. Others engaged in structural or semiotic analyses, commented on his cinematic techniques, or dwelled on his aesthetic principles. The sheer variety and the increasing volume of Olesha criticism bear witness to his growing importance as a subtle and creative spokesman for the embattled artist in a repressive society.
Zavist' [Envy] (novel) 1927
Liubov' (short stories) 1928
Tri tolstiaka [The Three Fat Men] (novel) 1928
Vishnevai kostochka (short stories) 1930
Spisok blagodeianii [A List of Assets] (play) 1931
Zagovar chusvtv [adaptation of Zavist'] (play) 1931
Chernyi chelovek (play) 1932
Strogii iunosha (play) 1934
Izbrannoe (selected works) 1935
Strogii iunosha (screenplay) 1936
Izbrannye sochineniia (selected works) 1956
The Wayward Comrade and the Commissars (short stories) 1960
Ni dnia bez strochki [No Day Without a Line] (memoirs and letters) 1965
Povesti i rasskazy (novels and short stories) 1965
Envy and Other Works (novel, short stories, and play) 1967
Legenda (selected stories) 1974
The Complete Short Stories and The Three Fat Men (short stories and novel) 1978
The Complete Plays (plays) 1983
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SOURCE: Beaujour, Elizabeth Klosty. “Proust-Envy: Fiction and Autobiography in the Works of Iurii Olesha.” Studies in Twentieth Century Literature 1 (1977): 123-34.
[In the following essay, Beaujour portrays Olesha's No Day Without a Line as a pessimistic semi-autobiographical work and notes Olesha's attempts to compare himself with Marcel Proust.]
The Soviet novelist, Iurii Olesha always said that his talent was essentially autobiographical.1 In his best known declaration, the speech to the First Congress of Soviet Writers in 1934, he stated: “People told me2 that Kavalerov [the hero of his novel Envy] had many of my traits, that it was an autobiographical portrait, that indeed Kavalerov was me. Yes, Kavalerov did look through my eyes. Kavalerov's colors, light, comparisons, metaphors and thoughts about things were mine.”3 To this admission that Kavalerov's sensibility, though not his activity, were Olesha's own, one may add the apparently autobiographical material of the childhood stories: “The Chain” (1929), “A Writer's Notes” (1934), “Human Material” (1928), and the special pleading of “The Secret Notebooks of Fellow Travellor Zand” (1932). Taken together, these and other avowedly autobiographical works form a coherent image which we are asked to contemplate: the self portrait of the artist as failure. Olesha's picture shows us...
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SOURCE: Slonim, Marc. “Soviet Romantics.” In Soviet Russian Literature: Writers and Problems, 1917-1977, pp. 122-29. New York: Oxford University Press, 1977.
[In the following excerpt from his chapter on Soviet romantics, Slonim presents an overview of Olesha's works, emphasizing Envy and a few plays and short stories.]
Perhaps the label of romantic does not do justice to the complexity of Yury Olesha, [a] representative of the Southern group, a novelist whose work and fate have a special place in Soviet literature. Born in 1899 into a middle-class family and brought up in Odessa, he served in the Red Army and then became a fellow-traveler and a journalist. His humoristic verse and sharp articles were published mainly in the Steam Whistle, the paper of the railroad workers' union. He suddenly came to the fore in 1927 when his Envy was hailed as a remarkable novel by both Soviet and émigré critics; Olesha's high reputation was established almost overnight. His other books—The Three Fat Men, a fantastic novel for children, Love (1928) and Cherry Stone (1929-30), two collections of short stories, The List of Benefits (1931), a play, Excerpts from the Intimate Notes of Fellow Traveler Sand (1932), and A Strict Youth, a scenario—were merely variations on the main themes of Envy: basically Olesha remains a man of one book....
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SOURCE: Croft, Lee. B. “Charlie Chaplin and Olesha's Envy.” College Language Association Journal 21 (1978): 525-37.
[In the following essay, Croft draws parallels between Olesha's Envy and the films of Charlie Chaplin.]
In the history of literature and cinema it may easily be said that the usual course of influence proceeded from the former to the latter. That is, literary texts rapidly provided a source of material for the burgeoning cinema industry. But finding early instances where cinematic productions had a noticeable influence on literature is more difficult. In the Soviet Union, however, where cinema was taken very seriously as an artistic medium even in the embryonic stages of its development, such an instance does exist. A clearly demonstrable example of this influence is to be found in Yuri Olesha's Envy, one of the most significantly artistic novels of the 'twenties.1 In theme, plot, and especially in characterization, this novel was influenced by the cinematic portrayals of Charlie Chaplin.
The external evidence for such an influence is all there. We know, for example, that Olesha had ample opportunity to view the films of Chaplin during the period in Moscow when he was writing his novel. These films, of course, were silent and thus transcend the language barrier solely by their profound visual impact. Gosfilmofond, the Soviet government's...
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SOURCE: Holzapfel, Tamara. “Inconsolable Memories and its Russian Counterpart.” Latin American Literary Review 11, no. 21 (fall-winter 1982): 21-6.
[In the following essay, Holzapfel compares a novel by the Cuban writer Edmondo Desnoes to Envy, finding in both a literary response to the fate of the individual in a mass society.]
The theme of the fate of the individual human being in a mass society has been a major preoccupation of twentieth century literature as a whole, but has had special resonance in post-revolutionary societies, as has been the case in Russia and, more recently, in Cuba. In Russia this theme can be traced through over half a century of literary history with meaningful patterns of development clearly emerging. The Cuban experience thus far parallels and echoes the literary debate that was carried on in the early Soviet period. Like the Russian Revolution, the Cuban Revolution allowed from the beginning a campaign to promote the arts and encouraged experimentation. But since individual and free responses to the data of experience are autonomous and uncontrollable, the state—Soviet and Cuban—soon reacted with apprehension to the early literary products and sought to change the attitude of writers toward their work.
My intent here is to examine Edmundo Desnoes' Inconsolable Memories in relation to Yurii Olesha's Envy,1 which is...
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SOURCE: Beaujour, Elizabeth K. Review of The Complete Plays, by Yuri Olesha.Slavic and East European Journal 28 (summer 1987): 272.
[In the following review of Michael Green and Jerome Katsell's translation of Olesha's plays, Beaujour criticizes the translations of colloquial expressions but finds the volume an otherwise valuable contribution to Olesha's body of work.]
The Complete Plays of Yury Olesha includes The Conspiracy of Feelings, The Three Fat Men, The List of Blessings, and a fragment of the unfinished The Black Man. Despite its title, the volume does not include the little drama in rhymed verse: “Play on an Execution Block.” This omission is inexplicable and unfortunate, since “Play on an Execution Block” is almost inaccessible (it is not included in the 1968 Soviet collection of Oleša's dramatic works), and it would have been a real service to have made that intriguing, Blokian text available, even in English. On the other hand, the Ardis volume does include A Stern Young Man, Oleša's screenplay for a suppressed film, an almost equally rare text.
The translations are generally serviceable, except perhaps for The Conspiracy of Feelings. It is tempting to introduce slang and vulgarisms when one translates dialogue containing informal conversation, but it is almost always a mistake to do so, since this practice...
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SOURCE: Harkins, William E. “No Day Without a Line: The World of Jurii Olesha.” In Russian Literature and American Critics, edited by Kenneth N. Brostrom, pp. 95-101. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan, 1984.
[In the following essay, Harkins notes that Olesha's fragmentary reminiscences show both an esthetic view of life and an absence of a moral or political viewpoint.]
Olesha's No Day Without a Line (Ni dnia bez strochki) was published posthumously in 1965. The book is far more than a series of fragmentary and casual autobiographical memoirs; it is a cycle of small essays that not only cover the life of its writer but provide information concerning his views, tastes, and philosophical and cultural likes and dislikes.1 The level of its individual, lapidary, and fragmented pieces is notably uneven, but then the book was conceived as an assemblage of fragments. When we consider that its execution comes from a period in Olesha's life when he was otherwise almost silent, we could hardly have expected more. Suffice it to say that the fragmentary character of the work plays a major role in its unevenness; while the form he chooses does relieve the author of all responsibility for continuity, smooth transition, and amplification of effect, it also creates a need for pointed beginnings and endings, and makes cumulative effects, if not impossible, at least difficult....
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SOURCE: Niemczyk, Barbara A. Review of The Complete Plays, by Yuri Olesha.Theatre Journal 37 (March 1985): 121-22.
[In the following review of Green and Katsell's translation of The Complete Plays, Niemczyk presents an overview of the works in the collection.]
Although his promising literary career was interrupted by the Stalinist era, Yury Olesha remains one of the most original writers of the early Soviet period. Best known in the West for his novel Envy, published in 1927, he also wrote short stories, essays, and scripts for the stage and screen. He was clearly more comfortable with the short story and novel, but his dramatic pieces nevertheless present interesting examples of the kind of experimentation with form and genre that characterized Russian literature of the 1920s. The activity in Olesha's plays frequently borders on the surreal, with touches of finely tuned irony and comic absurdity. Olesha's dramatic works have been collected for the first time in English in this new volume edited and excellently translated, with an introduction, by Michael Green and Jerome Katsell.
Born in 1899 into a Polish aristocratic family from the Ukraine, Yury Olesha, like many of his contemporaries, consciously broke with his family and background and embraced the Revolution. Never entirely comfortable in the new world, however, he retained a strong attachment to the...
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SOURCE: Oja, Matt F. “Iurii Olesha's Zavist': Fantasy, Reality, and Split Personality.” Canadian Sylvanite Papers/Revue canadienne des slavists, 28, no. 1 (March 1986): 52-63.
[In the following essay, Oja argues that it is possible to separate fantasy and reality in the imaginative work Zavist', thereby providing clues to the thematic structure of the novel.]
Iurii Olesha's minor masterpiece Zavist' is a confusing and difficult novel because of its often fantastic atmosphere. The action takes place on a variety of levels of reality, ranging from the ordinary objective world through stages of fantasy to outright dreams. Because Olesha's transitions between these levels are abrupt and unannounced, it is often easy to miss them. Most criticism of the work simply accepts this confusion at face value: Zavist' is a fantastic novel, in which impossible events and incongruous or illogical connections do not require a logical explanation.1 In this paper I shall suggest an alternative, essentially positivist approach: not only is it possible to distinguish between what is real and what is imagined by the characters, but moreover such an understanding goes far to clarify the thematic content of the work.
There are two keys which, once accepted, enable us to sift the reality from the fantasy. The first is a recognition that by...
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SOURCE: LeBlanc, Ronald D. “The Soccer Match in Envy.”1Slavic and East European Journal 32, no. 1 (spring 1988): 55-71.
[In the following essay, LeBlanc, using the works of other Russian writers for comparison, argues that the soccer match in Envy is an apt metaphor for the romantic competition in the novel.]
Georg Lukács begins his essay “Narrate or Describe?” by making a comparison between the “depiction” of a horse race in Zola's Nana (1880) and the “narration” of the steeplechase in Tolstoj's Anna Karenina (1877). What is so striking about these two scenes, Lukács argues, is the vastly different way the authors fit them into the narrative structure of their respective novels. With Zola, the horse race serves as a mere descriptive tableau for the reader, where “the events are loosely related to the plot and could easily be eliminated” (110). With Tolstoj, on the other hand, the race is “no mere tableau but rather a series of intensely dramatic scenes which provide a turning point in the plot” (111). Tolstoj thus raises the horse race from the realm of mere incident and integrates it into what Lukács calls a “critical dramatic context”—specifically, the Vronskij-Anna-Karenin love triangle. The critical distinction Lukács makes between Tolstoj's “narration” and Zola's “description” raises some interesting...
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SOURCE: Naydan, Michael M. “Intimations of Biblical Myth and the Creative Process in Jurij Olesa's ‘Visnevaja Kostocka’.” Slavic and East European Journal 33, no. 3 (fall 1989): 373-85.
[In the following essay, Naydan presents a semiotic analysis of Olesha short story “The Cherry Pit,” emphasizing the concepts of Biblical myth, regeneration, and time.]
Oleša's contemporary Jurij Tynjanov succinctly expresses the polysemantic nature of the word in his classic study Problema stixotvornogo jazyka (The Problem of Verse Language): “Slovo ne imeet odnogo opredelennogo značenija. Ono—xameleon, v kotorom každyj raz voznikajut ne tol'ko raznye ottenki, no inogda i raznye kraski” [A word does not have one definite meaning. It is a chameleon, in which not only various shades, but even various colors arise with each usage] (48, 64).1 In the Russian wordconscious tradition of Gogol' and Leskov, the lexicon of Oleša's short story “Višnevaja kostočka” (“The Cherry Pit”; 1929)2 exhibits marked polysemy: certain signifiers allow for multiple signifieds. When we examine the similarities among these signifieds in toto, the myth-oriented polysemantic nature of the text serves to expand our interpretation of the story from the level of fabula to a more complex psychological and symbolic plane. In a curious parallel, Tynjanov's metaphor of the...
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SOURCE: Peppard, Victor. “The Poetics of Dialogue.” In The Poetics of Yury Olesha, pp. 96-124. Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 1989.
[In the following chapter from his book-length study of Olesha's poetic artistry, Peppard points out the ways in which Olesha uses dialogic structures in his work.]
Olesha's best works are so thoroughly dialogical because dialogue takes place in them on a number of different levels. One of the most important of these is the level of narrative structure. For the word in an artistic text to be perceived as dialogical rather than monological, it must, of course, be addressed to another person, either implicitly or explicitly. Dostoevsky's Notes from Underground (Zapiski iz-pod polia) (1864) is certainly one of the most graphic examples of a dialogical narrative. Here virtually every word of the underground man is addressed to an imaginary listener so as to rebut in advance all possible objections the listener might have to the underground man's arguments. The distinctive feature of Olesha's own particular narrative dialogicality is the extent to which the addressee is openly identified as another self of the narrator, usually the narrator as child. This marked circularity and self-centeredness of Olesha's fictional dialogue often gives the appearance of a special kind of soliloquy.1 And indeed, as Bakhtin has observed, the soliloquy is...
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SOURCE: Ehre, Milton. “Olesha's Zavist': Utopia and Dystopia.”Slavic Review 50, no. 3 (fall 1991): 601-11.
[In the following essay, Ehre explores the ways in which Olesha's modernist novel Zavist' presents a comic view of the Soviets' utopian dream.]
Utopia and dystopia designate the human dream of happiness and the human nightmare of despair when these are assigned a place (topos) in space or time. Since narrative literature “is essentially an imitation not of persons but of action and life, of happiness and misery,”1 utopian and dystopian inventions are mere extremes of literature's ongoing story. In realistic fictions, although social circumstances may range from the incidental to the decisive, the story of the movement to happiness or unhappiness is usually told in terms of individual achievement and failure. In the utopian and anti-utopian scheme deliverance or damnation depend on the place where one has found oneself, whether it is “the good place” or “the bad place.” Although utopias are allegorical constructs of the rational mind, attempting to bring order to the disorder of life, their denial of what is for the sake of what ought to be makes them a species of fantasy literature—a dream of reason.2
When the literary imagination eschews mimetic designs, when it refracts rather than reflects reality, it is, in Harry Levin's words,...
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SOURCE: Tolczyk, Dariusz. “Poetics and Politics.” Partisan Review 59, no. 2 (spring 1992): 296-307.
[In the following essay, Tolczyk calls Olesha a post-realist who found it nearly impossible to reconcile his idea of artistic “truth” with the realities of the Soviet system.]
Russian literary criticism waits for its own The Captive Mind, in which the problem of various writers' attraction to communism, especially in the 1920s and 1930s, would be given as expansive study as Czeslaw Milosz's gave to Eastern European writers and Stalinist dogmas. Yet does the problem of a writer's attraction to communism still pertain to literary criticism? Can it be described in literary terms, or is its only literary context in the fact that we are aware of the political choices of writers? At least in some cases, there does exist a crucial connection between the parameters of literary expression assumed by a writer and his ideological options. For if we treat the parameters of literary expression as remaining in an inseparable relationship to a writer's philosophical model of the universe—either consciously assumed or, perhaps more often, immanently implied in a chosen descriptive strategy—then the question of a writer's ideological choices ceases to be an extraliterary one.
The work of the post-realist Soviet writer Yuri Olesha (1899-1960) embodies such a close mutual conditioning...
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SOURCE: Borden, Richard C. “H. G. Wells' ‘Door in the Wall’ in Russian Literature.” Slavic and East European Journal, 36, no. 3 (fall 1992): 323-38.
[In the following excerpt, Borden explores the influences of a short story by H. G. Wells on Olesha's work.]
In The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Other Clinical Tales, Oliver Sacks describes the case of Mrs. O'C., who was born in Ireland and had lost both parents before the age of five (125-27). All alone she had been sent to America to live with a forbidding maiden aunt. She had no conscious memory of her parents, of Ireland, of what she considered “home,” of what she all her life called her “lost childhood.” Dr. Sacks notes that this loss of her “earliest, most precious years of life” had always caused Mrs. O'C. to feel a “keen and painful sadness”: “She had often tried, but never succeeded, to recapture her lost and forgotten childhood memories.” When in her eighties, Mrs. O'C. one night experienced a vivid nostalgic dream of this childhood, accompanied by the Irish songs she had heard in those earliest years. The loud songs, however, did not stop when Mrs. O'C. awoke. In fact the songs continued to play in her head for several days—often loudly enough to drown out external noise. Dr. Sacks concluded that this phenomenon resulted from a small thrombosis or infarction—not unlike an epileptic seizure—in the...
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SOURCE: Zholkovsky, Alexander. “Mandel'štam's Egyptian Stamp: A Study in Envy?” Slavic and East European Journal 38, no. 2 (summer 1994): 224-44.
[In the following essay, Zholkovsky outlines several similarities between Osip Mandel'štam's novel The Egyptian Stamp and Envy, while noting differences in style.]
1. CHRONOLOGY, POSTURES, AND STYLE
Mandel'štam's The Egyptian Stamp (1928; henceforth: ES) appeared soon after Envy (1927), and its writing, begun prior to the publication of Oleša's work, may have been spurred by the latter's instant success.1 The stylistic and thematic affinities, as well as differences, between the two did not go unnoticed by contemporary critics (e. g., by Berkovskij, 1989 ), who, among other things, praised Oleša for being more in tune with the future-oriented Soviet culture than the predominantly retrospective Mandel'štam. Recently, the connection has been restated in terms that again—albeit mutatis mutandis—come down harshly on Mandel'štam:
The Egyptian Stamp was neither a momentary lapse nor an uncommon phenomenon. Together with Ju. Oleša's Envy (1927), K. Vaginov's Goat Song (1928), M. Zoščenko's Mišel' Sinjagin (1930), and B. Pasternak's Spektorskij (1924-1931), it belonged to the genre...
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SOURCE: Borden, Richard C. “Iurii Olesha: The Child Behind the Metaphor.” Modern Language Review 93, no. 2 (April 1998): 441-54.
[In the following essay, Borden explores the importance of the childhood experience to the formation of metaphor in Olesha's narratives.]
Iurii Olesha (1899-1960), like many of his generation, believed that the poet's singular gift was an ability to see the world ‘as if for the first time’, ‘as would a child’, as, in fact, he himself had seen the world in childhood.1 Poets were they who preserved the child's capacity for unmediated perception. Olesha also believed, however, that childhood experience was itself the source of art, that ‘artistic intellect […] comes after all from childhood, when a man really does see the world for the first time’.2 Poets, moreover, do not merely see like children, they restore to others childhood's actual images, sensations, and those modes of perception normally lost to adults, owing to habit, indifference, or increasingly abstract and utilitarian linguistic engagements with their surroundings. Art, therefore, enables readers to ‘see anew’, to experience ‘as if for the first time’, to be like children, or, in fact, to be like artists themselves. If this falls short of an accepted aesthetic principle, it appears to be a description of Olesha's specific talents that is agreeable to...
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SOURCE: Borenstein, Eliot. “The Family Men of Yuri Olesha.” In Men Without Women: Masculinity and Revolution in Russian Fiction, 1917-1929, pp. 125-61. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2000.
[In the following essay, Borenstein deals with the complexities of the father-son relationship in Olesha's story “Legend” and his novel Envy.]
Yuri Olesha wrote about fathers, sons, and brothers, but never simply about men. No matter how hard they try, Olesha's male characters cannot escape the context of the family. Indeed, story after story portrays its protagonists' attempts to extricate themselves from filial ties, but every effort only highlights its own futility. Biology itself is against them: every man is born a son, and most are destined to become fathers. But Olesha wrote in an era when biology, like all nature, was a frontier to be conquered, an elemental force to be reined in. If ever it seemed possible that the hackneyed fathers-and-sons issue could be resolved, that time was the 1920s.
[H]owever, Olesha's protagonists are only too aware of the father's integral role in their lives. Both despising and needing a male parent, they typically escape from one father only to run straight into the arms of another.1 If he cannot avoid fathers completely, Olesha's hero reserves the right, in the words of Elizabeth Beaujour, to “choose his ancestors” (“Imagination of...
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SOURCE: Michalski, Milena. “Cinematic Literature and Literary Cinema: Olesha, Room and the Search for a New Art Form.” In Russian Literature, Modernism and the Visual Arts, edited by Catriona Kelly and Stephen Lovell, pp. 220-49. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 2000.
[In the following essay, Michalski examines cinematic techniques used in Olesha's literary works and analyzes Olesha's screenplay, Strogii iunosha, and its adaptation by filmmaker Abram Room.]
LITERATURE AND FILM: IURII OLESHA IN CONTEXT
The 1920s and early 1930s in the Soviet Union was a period of experimentation and innovation in both literature and cinema. Writers felt that there should be a new Soviet literature, just as filmmakers felt that a new Soviet cinema was needed. The same general issues faced both arts: how to find a balance between elite and mass cultures, between ‘proletarian’ art and that of non-proletarian writers and filmmakers, whether or not writers and filmmakers should be forced to join organisations and what the Party's role should be.
In the early 1920s filmmakers such as Kuleshov, Pudovkin, Eisenstein and Vertov were keen to find new forms of expression in the cinema which would ensure that film was treated as an art form quite distinct from literature. Formal experimentation with filming and editing techniques to convey meaning was their main...
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SOURCE: LeBlanc, Ronald D. “Gluttony and Power in Iurii Olesha's Envy.” Russian Review 60, no. 2 (April 2001): 220-37.
[In the following essay, LeBlanc uses a semiotic approach to discuss the ways in which Olesha's novel uses gastronomic and alimentary motifs in a playful way and also suggests that these motifs relate to the story's central power struggle between individual imagination and the new Soviet ideas of science, progress, and collectivism.]
Given the highly carnivalized view of the world that informs the narrative structure of Envy (Zavist', 1927), one should not be terribly surprised to find that Iurii Olesha's controversial novella contains gastronomic and alimentary motifs that function in a highly Rabelaisian way, with food imagery being called upon to celebrate what Mikhail Bakhtin calls the “material bodily principle” (“images of the human body itself, food, drink, defecation, and sexual life”) and thus to express a joyful sense of satiety, abundance, and excess.1 Indeed, Olesha's story fairly reverberates with images of gluttonous overeating, heavy drinking, and physical corpulence, all of which Bakhtin identifies with the “grotesque body” portrayed in works of carnivalized literature.2 From the tubby “aristocratic” torso of Andrei Babichev, the Soviet salami king, to the flaccid figure of Anechka Prokopovich, the cook for...
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Peppard, Victor. “Selected Bibliography.” In The Poetics of Yury Olesha, pp. 147-57. Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 1989.
An extensive list of primary and secondary sources.
Avins, Carol. “Eliot and Olesa: Versions of the Anti-Hero.” Canadian Review of Comparative Literature/Revue canadienne de littérature comparée 6 (winter 1979): 64-74.
Compares Envy to T. S. Eliot's “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.”
Erlich, Victor. “A Shop of Metaphors: The Short Brilliant Career of Yury Olesha.” In Modernism and Revolution: Russian Literature in Transition, pp. 198-216. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1994.
A study of Olesha's work in the context of Russian literary modernism from around 1900 to the end of the 1920s.
Grayson, Jane. “Double Bill: Nabokov and Olesha.” In From Pushkin to Palisandriia: Essays on the Russian Novel in Honor of Richard Freeborn, edited by Arnold McMillin, pp. 181-200. New York: St. Martin's, 1990.
A comparison of Olesha's work with that of Vladimir Nabokov.
Ingdahl, Kazimiera. The Artist and the Creative Act: A Study of Jurij Olesa's Novel Zavist'. Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiskell, 1984, 172 p....
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