Abram Tertz and the Poetics of Crime

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Catharine Theimer Nepomnyashchy

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Andrei Sinyavsky is one of the most important Russian writers of the post-Stalin period, author of highly esteemed and controversial fiction, essays, and criticism that he has published for the past three decades both under his own name and under the pseudonym Abram Tertz. Yet there has been little written on the works of Sinyavsky/Tertz until now. Catharine Theimer Nepomnyashchy fills the gap, examining Tertz's writings for the first time.

Nepomnyashchy begins by discussing the explosive literary scandals touched off by the works of Tertz in Russia and in the Russian emigré community in the West. She argues that the controversies stem from the fear of uncontrolled language that runs deep in Russian culture, a fear that the Tertz texts seek to subvert by testing the limits of verbal representation. After examining the attacks on these works over the years, Nepomnyashchy turns to close textual analyses of the individual works—novels and novellas including The Trial Begins and Goodnight, the short stories, Tertz's collection of aphorisms Thoughts Unawares, his prison-camp memoir A Voice from the Chorus, and the critical studies Strolls with Pushkin and In the Shadow of Gogol—and shows how these works liberate and redefine the roles of writer, reader, and text.

Catharine Theimer Nepomnyashchy is assistant professor of Russian literature at Barnard College. She is the co-translator of Tertz's Strolls with Pushkin, published by Yale University Press.

"Nepomnyashchy creatively and productively engages the brilliant, bizarre world of Abram Tertz. The book consistently operates on levels of sophistication, insight, intellectual rigor, originality, and general excellence far above those on which Sinyavsky/Tertz scholarship previously has been conducted."—Richard Borden

"This beautifully produced volume includes separate bibliographies of the works of Tertz and Sinyavsky. An essential work for all specialists in contemporary Russian culture."—Choice

"Nepomnyashchy's fascinating monograph fills a gap in Tertz scholarship, both by providing a systematic treatment of his entire oeuvre and by exploring the theme of transgression that permeates his works—indeed, his very identity—at every level. . . . Nepomnyashchy has given us a brilliant interpretation of an important and complex writer."—Rachel May, Russian Review

"This book has nearly every virtue one would want in a first monograph on a major contemporary writer: Nepomnyashchy knows the material extremely well, having read everything Siniavskii/Tertz has written and everything anyone else has written about him, too. . . . To be recommended to all who have read Simiavskii, indeed to anyone curious about contemporary Russian culture and eager to understand one of its most intelligent, courageous, and charming writers."—Staephanie Sandler, Slavic Review

"Nepomnyashchy's study is a milestone in Siniavsky scholarship. It is well researched and well conceived; moreover, like many good studies, it becomes one with the subject of its inquiry."—Walter F. Kolonosky, Slavic and East European Journal

ISBN: 9780300062106
Publication Date: June 28, 1995
400 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
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