Yury Olesha Analysis

Other Literary Forms

(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Yury Olesha’s main literary contribution was in the field of fiction. The publication of his major work, the novel Zavist’ (1927; Envy, 1936), established him immediately as an important writer. Its theme of the right of individuals to free development of their abilities was contrary to the official line of collectivism, but it was tolerated in the relatively free spirit of the 1920’s. As soon as that decade was over, both Olesha and the novel were ostracized for many years. His only works to be published were those in which he tried to accommodate the regime, and publication of even those ceased in the late 1930’s. For the rest of his life, he did not publish anything of importance. His memoirs, Ni dnia bez strochki (No Day Without a Line, 1979), were published posthumously in 1965.


(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Mainly because of his precarious relationship with the Soviet Union’s communist regime, Yury Olesha did not receive any awards. The government tolerated him and his writings until the beginning of Joseph Stalin’s reign of terror in the early 1930’s. Olesha was very interested in theater and was highly respected by the leading directors such as Konstantin Stanislavsky and Vsevolod Meyerhold, who staged his plays as soon as they were published. Olesha’s love for theater also manifested in the rewriting of his novels and stories into plays, with different levels of success. Two of his plays, The Conspiracy of Feelings and A List of Assets, were considered to be some of the best Russian plays in the late 1920’s and the early 1930’s.


(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Barratt, Andrew. Yurii Olesha’s “Envy.” Birmingham, England: University of Birmingham, 1981. Focuses on Olesha’s masterpiece.

Beaujour, Elizabeth K. The Invisible Land: A Study of the Artistic Imagination of Iurii Olesha. New York: Columbia University Press, 1970. A book-length study.

Cornwell, Neil. “The Principle of Distortion in Olesha’s Envy.” Essays in Poetics 5, no. 1 (1980). Analyzes the technical aspects of Olesha’s creation of satire.

Green, Michael, and Jerome Katsell. “Olesha and the Theater.” In Yury Olesha: The Complete Plays. Ann Arbor, Mich.: Ardis, 1983. A succinct overview of Olesha’s plays and of his career as a writer, paying special attention to how he converted his fiction into plays.

Harkins, William E. “No Day Without a Line: The World of Iurii Olesha.” In Russian Literature and American Critics, edited by Kenneth N. Brostrom. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1984. Discusses Olesha’s satirical worldview.

Peppard, Victor. The Poetics of Yury Olesha. Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 1989. Analyzes Olesha’s literary language.

Rudnitsky, Konstantin. Meyerhold the Director. Ann Arbor, Mich.: Ardis, 1981. An authoritative study of Meyerhold’s work as a director, touching on his dealings with Olesha in staging his plays. Serves as a history of the Russian theater in the first half of the twentieth century, in which Olesha played a brief but important role.

Salys, Rimgaila, ed. Olesha’s Envy: A Critical Companion. Evanston, Ill.: Northwestern University Press, 1999. A collection of essays that offer a helpful guide to Olesha’s novel.

Tucker, Janet G. Revolution Betrayed: Jurij Olesha’s “Envy.” Columbus, Ohio: Slavica, 1996. Examines political and social issues present in Envy and The Conspiracy of Feelings, focusing on the role of intellectuals and literature in relation to the revolution and ensuing Soviet system.