cover image A History of Russian Literature

A History of Russian Literature

Victor Terras. Yale University Press, $39 (672pp) ISBN 978-0-300-04971-8

This encyclopedic, invaluable survey captures the full sweep of Russian literature, from sixth-century saints' lives to Mayakovsky's ``cubo-futurist'' theater and contemporary samizdat poetry. With capsule profiles of hundreds of writers and literary works, the book compresses an enormous wealth of information into 650 pages. The scope is vast: folk songs and tales, picaresque adventures, fables, drama, satire, novels, poetry, essays, criticism. Terras ( Handbook of Russian Literature ) plausibly argues that Russian literature has compulsively but not successfully sought political relevance, whether in medieval chronicles and war tales or in Tolstoy, Dostoyevski and Turgenev, all of whom used the novel as a forum for social and political debate. This ready reference both for scholars and for serious students sets Russian literature in a social and political context that makes it more accessible to Western readers. (Feb.)