Critical Context

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

The year 1925 brought the first explicit Party resolution, “On Party Policy in the Field of Imaginative Literature”; it was the beginning of political control over writers. The comparative freedom of the early 1920’s began to die, and the Formalists, Futurists, and other experimental groups felt the shock. Shklovsky, as a member of LEF, an organization of Futurists and Formalists attempting to define in their own terms the way to respond to the new life after the Revolution, recognized the implications of the resolution. They saw that it paved the way for an essentially reactionary literary theory. (The policy would emerge as Socialist Realism in the early 1930’s.) LEF died out in 1925, and Shklovsky says that Third Factory began as an attempt to accommodate to his times. Having returned from exile in Germany only in 1923, certain that he had to share the life of his country whatever fate that might bring, he apparently meant to try to follow Party guidance. Nevertheless, the book wrote itself differently. The habit of his mind was contradiction, according to Richard Sheldon, who translated the book into English, and the Formalist views Shklovsky had had so large a part in developing could not so easily be deserted. As a result, his persisting (though developing) view of literature not as a mirror of reality but as a complex verbal construct kept undermining his attempts to conform to Party thinking. Instead, the most he could do was to begin to...

(The entire section is 478 words.)