Boris Andreyevich Vogau Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Boris Pilnyak (pyihl-NYAHK) can be regarded as a symbol of the vagaries of literary politics in the Soviet Union during the 1920’s and 1930’s. A “fellow traveler” who was sympathetic to the need for social reform in Russia, he initially accepted the Bolshevik Revolution as a genuine people’s revolt. As a student of nature and a sympathizer with the common people, however, he was increasingly critical of the bureaucratization and arbitrary nature of Communist rule. His engaged but independent stance made him an easy target in several organized campaigns to intimidate Soviet intellectuals, and he was the particular subject of harsh governmental criticism in 1925 and 1929. His attempts to adjust to the changing political climate compromised his reputation and won him only temporary respite; he was arrested during the Stalinist purges and summarily executed in 1938.{$S[A]Vogau, Boris Andreyevich;Pilnyak, Boris}

The son of educated, middle-class parents of German, Slavic, and Tartar extraction, he was born Boris Andreyevich Vogau in a small town near Moscow on September 29, 1894. After graduating from the Nizhni-Novgorod school in 1913, he attended the Moscow Institute of Commerce, where he studied business finance and administration. Pilnyak achieved fame with The Naked Year, which, with its fragmentary, modernist style, departed significantly from his earlier short stories. The novel is an electrifying portrait of the revolution, reflecting in a fresh way its enthusiasm, its horror, and its human spirit. Many of Pilnyak’s short stories from the 1920’s display a lively interest in experimental prose.

Pilnyak’s concern for the people of Russia and the elementary forces at work within the great land is evident in his longest work, The Volga Falls to the Caspian Sea. His short novel Mahogany, published in Berlin in 1929, was denounced as antirevolutionary and banned in the Soviet Union. Pilnyak traveled extensively in Russia, Germany, England, the Near East, and the Far East. In 1931 he toured the United States and wrote an interesting commentary on his experiences in Okay.