cover image Energy of Delusion: A Book on Plot

Energy of Delusion: A Book on Plot

Viktor Shklovsky, , trans. from the Russian by Shushan Avagyan. . Dalkey Archive, $14.95 (428pp) ISBN 978-1564784261

Just in time for the publication of two new translations of War and Peace comes the first publication in English of what is arguably the greatest critical work on Tolstoy's masterpiece. Russian critic Shklovsky (1893–1984) is the author of Third Factory and many other critical books. (They are slowly being translated into English and released by Dalkey Archive.) All are written in Shklovsky's inimitable signature digressive style, but none perhaps has as grand a concentric development as this book, which radiates out from War and Peace and into Pushkin, Turgenev, the Opoyaz period, Anna Karenina , the Neva, Dostoevsky, Shakespeare, the Bible, Chekhov, Picasso and many, many more figures, books, rivers, places, things. The result is a deep and deeply satisfying meditation on the form of the novel and on what reading novels “now” (Shklovsky finished the book at the end of his life) is like. Shklovsky takes his title from a letter of Tolstoy's regarding “an earthly, spontaneous energy that's impossible to invent”; he has that energy in spades here, delightful even if one has been unable to finish Tolstoy's novel. (Oct.)