The Hamburg Score

Viktor Shklovsky, trans. from the Russian by Shushan Avagyan. Dalkey Archive, $15 (160p) ISBN 978-1-62897-167-5
Russian author (Theory of Prose) and formalist critic Shklovsky (1893–1984) digs deep in this newly translated collection, originally published in 1928. He prefaces the work by calling for a “Hamburg score” for literature—a wrestling term for a special match where no one takes a dive and participants are all judged by their “true worth.” Only the savviest readers of Russian literature, however, will be able to authoritatively judge his sophisticated literary criticism. Thankfully, Shklovsky is an eclectic writer and some pieces are more broadly accessible, including some general criticism and well-observed memoir. His extended treatise on the feuilleton, a short piece published in a periodical, is enlightening, and his explorations of the form thereafter, especially a series of five feuilletons considering Soviet filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein, are delightfully composed and rigorously argued. Indeed, the book’s most accessible section for nonspecialists is likely to be his writings on film. Shklovsky wrote several scripts in the 1920s, but he writes about the form and industry from enough of an outsider’s perspective to be appreciated by any lover of the arts. This book will be a treat for serious lovers of Russian literature and will further reward those who stick around for the more essayistic short pieces of essay and memoir. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 12/19/2016
Release date: 02/01/2017
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