Viktor Shklovsky Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Because of the energy, imagination, and versatility manifested in his numerous writings, Viktor Borisovich Shklovsky (SHKLAWF-skee) won recognition as the most durable and possibly the most prominent critic and writer affiliated with the Russian Formalist movement. His father was a mathematics teacher of Jewish ancestry, and his mother was of Latvian descent; he was born in St. Petersburg on January 24, 1893, and was raised in a household which included an older half brother and a sister. Apparently even during his adolescent years, Shklovsky had a proclivity for literary disputation. He published a short article in 1908, and while he was enrolled at the University of St. Petersburg in 1913, problems of critical theory evidently interested him more than academic matters. In 1914, an important essay, Resurrection of the Word, appeared, which presented his assessment of the challenging new ideas advanced by Russian Futurist writers. In order to promote innovative approaches to art and literary style, he took a leading part in the formation of Opoyaz, a society for the study of poetic language.

During World War I Shklovsky enlisted in the army and served with Russian forces stationed in Galicia and Ukraine. For a time he also was employed in the capital as an instructor for armored car personnel. His political leanings led to complications after the Russian Revolution of 1917. In connection with his official duties, he spent time on the Austrian front and also in Iran; while in Petrograd, he took part in a plot to restore parliamentary government at the expense of the Bolshevik regime. Afterward, he escaped to Kiev, and upon his return he was exonerated of political charges.

In Petrograd, Shklovsky married Vasilisa Georgievna Kordi, who became the mother of his two children, Varvara and Nikita. Shklovsky assisted young writers, such as the Serapion brothers, and he became a member of Lef, an association of Futurist and Formalist authors. Once more to avoid arrest on political grounds, he emigrated and remained abroad for more than a year, first in Finland and then in Germany. In the autumn of 1923, under the terms of a general amnesty, he returned to his native country and settled in Moscow.

Highly idiosyncratic views of his personal...

(The entire section is 932 words.)


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Avins, Carol. “Emigration and Metaphor: Viktor Shklovsky, Zoo: Or, Letters Not About Love (1923).” In Border Crossings: The West and Russian Identity in Soviet Literature, 1917-1934. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1983. Historical and critical study; contains index and bibliography.

Crawford, Lawrence. “Viktor Shklovskii: Différance in Defamiliarization.” Comparative Literature 36 (1984). One of the most celebrated tenets of Shklovsky’s theories is considered.

Jackson, Robert Louis, and Stephen Rudy, eds. Russian Formalism, a Retrospective Glance: A Festschrift in Honor of Victor Erlich. New Haven, Conn.: Yale Center for International and Area Studies, 1985. Shklovsky’s position in relation to that of other writers is discussed in several of the contributions.

Lary, N. M. Dostoevsky and Soviet Film: Visions of Demonic Realism. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1986. The relationship among fiction, criticism, and film in some of Shklovsky’s endeavors is discussed in the first part of this work.

Ognev, Vladimir. “Viktor Shklovskii Teaches Us to Think.” Soviet Studies in Literature 20, no. 1 (1983/1984). Sympathetic comments by a Soviet observer.

Riccomini, Donald R. “Defamiliarization, Reflexive Reference, and Modernism.” Bucknell Review 25, no. 2 (1980). One of the most celebrated tenets of Shklovsky’s theories is considered.

Smart, Robert Augustin. “Viktor Shklovsky and Sentimental Journey.” In The Nonfiction Novel. Lanham, Md.: University Press of America, 1985. The unusual hybrid genre developed in Shklovsky’s autobiographical novels is dealt with from the standpoint of this well-known work.

Steiner, Peter. Russian Formalism: A Metapoetics. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1984. Deals with theoretical issues.