The Widows of Russia and Other Writings

Carl R. Proffer, Author Ardis Publishers $25 (325p) ISBN 978-0-88233-947-4
Proffer likens officially endorsed Soviet literature to ""wheelchair basketball.'' No one has so trenchantly analyzed the shallowness that pervades much Soviet writing today. Before his death in 1983, this noted American scholar made numerous trips to the U.S.S.R. to take the pulse of the literary scene. He visited the widows of famous Soviet writers and discovered that they are a major force in keeping alive the flame of true literature. We meet Nadezhda Mandelstam, widow of poet Osip Mandelstam and an important writer in her own right. She offers the unsettling revelation that Isaac Babel watched Cheka executions, upon invitation from his friends in the secret police. Interviewing Lily Brik, unofficial wife of Vladimir Mayakovsky, Proffer learned the remarkable tale of the poet's daughter secretly born to an American Communist sympathizer. He also met two of Mikhail Bulgakov's wives. Essays divulge how censorhip squashes even emigre editors. A sharp-eyed, intimate glimpse of the Russian literary world. (October 19)
Reviewed on: 12/01/1987
Release date: 12/01/1987
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