The Silver Crest Critical Context - Essay

Kornei Chukovsky

Critical Context

Although not typical of autobiographical or personal experience narratives, The Silver Crest succeeds as witty and illuminating reading about the last years of Imperial Russia. More than sixty percent of the population was illiterate; abject poverty was rampant. A previous knowledge of that fateful reactionary period would be helpful to present-day readers, but the author’s acute observations of family mem-bers, fellow pupils, friends, and foes clarify the historical time frame. Lively episodes provide much laughter, making the book a favorite with young adults.

Written when Chukovsky was a grandfather and after the horrors of the dictatorship of Joseph Stalin, this assessment of the author’s early life brings fresh insight to a desperate time that led inevitably to violent revolution. Chukovsky asks his readers “to share his love” for those good folk who helped him, as well as “to share his hatred for the scum who have not yet disappeared completely from our way of life, not finally, not everywhere.” Chukovsky’s genial humor, his love for little children, and his reverence for scholarship are tributes to the spirit that pervades The Silver Crest. Chukovsky garnered many honors in his long career, but most important, generations of Russian children have loved and will continue to love his poetry, written especially for them. The Silver Crest introduces young adults to an author whose experience adds to their knowledge of an important place and time in world history.