WRITERS IN RUSSIA 1917-1978 by Max Hayward


Email this review


Hayward, who died in 1979, was an Oxford-affiliated linguist whose primary interest in Russian led to his translating some of the greatest of 20th-century works: Pasternak's Doctor Zhivago, Solzhenitsyn's One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, Nadezhda Mandelstam's Hope Against Hope and Hope Abandoned, Andrei Sinyavsky's A Voice from the Chorus, the poems of Akhmatova, and the important books about Pasternak by Olga Ivinskaya and Alexander Gladkov. Hayward's introductions to a few of these works are included here, along with fugitive pieces--some of greater scope--from other books. Most critically enlightening, perhaps: ""Doctor Zhivago is less a novel in the usual sense than what might be called a lyrical kaleidoscope: persons, events and places pass rapidly before the reader, and there is rarely any attempt to elaborate them, let alone place them against a general background. But that is how life was for most people during all the years of war and revolution and throughout the subsequent Soviet era. There was no general background, either to individual lives or to the life of the country as a whole."" What Hayward did better and more naturally than being a critic, however, was to focus large: two synoptic essays--one historical, ""The Russian Empire,"" and the other historical/literary, ""Russian Literature in the Soviet Period, 1917-1975""--are exemplary in giving new readers of things Russian indispensable background while also providing sophisticated distinctions for those already knowledgeable. (Hayward's summary of how prose became the natural vehicle for Socialist realism is especially perceptive.) Some of this material--perhaps too much--shows up in the other pieces as well (less Hayward's fault than the editor's); but despite the recapitulation, this is a solid book of information straightforwardly presented, by one of the most valuable literary facilitators of our time.

Pub Date: July 1st, 1983
Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich