Readers with a background in formalism and its successors will find this of interest, though Bulgakov, Sholokhov, and...

LIFE OF A BISHOP'S ASSISTANT

Slender, allusive novel of clerical foibles by Russian/Soviet novelist Shklovsky (1893-1984).

Gavriil Dobrynin is born into the Orthodox Church—literally, his father a priest, both grandfathers priests. Social mobility being what it was in the age of Catherine the Great, Gavriil might have done worse, though the churchly world he falls into is full of politics and intrigue; his introduction is a coup against an archimandrite who “was an enemy of God and should be squealed on under the first and second articles,” as one of his denouncers, an altar boy, has it. The first article, explains Shklovsky (The Hamburg Score, 2017, etc.), concerns slanders against God, the second slanders against the state; either one brings pain on the heads of those found guilty of violations. In this sort-of biography, novelized with invented dialogue and episodes, Gavriil falls under the tutelage of a bishop named “Kirill Florinsky, or Fliorinsky, as he whimsically called himself,” who’s a little more frivolous than his office might tolerate—though he’s no weakling and not afraid to throw a punch. As the story progresses, the master outfoxes the student, and then the student the master; fortunes wax and wane, though Gavriil soon learns that ambitions go far when matched with wine and fireworks. There’s some enjoyable cat and mouse here, but in the end the story is a touch arid, written as if to conform either to the censor or the requirements of the reigning literary theory. At its best, though, Shklovsky’s short novel serves up some subtly funny, suggestively subversive resonances that might remind the reader of his contemporary Mikhail Bulgakov. Had the edition included good notes and an introduction, these resonances and how the book fits into Shklovsky’s broad-ranging body of work might have been made more comprehensible to readers new to the writer or, for that matter, to literature of the Soviet era.

Readers with a background in formalism and its successors will find this of interest, though Bulgakov, Sholokhov, and Pasternak remain the cornerstone writers of the era for nonspecialist readers.

Pub Date: July 21, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-62897-174-3

Page Count: 140

Publisher: Dalkey Archive

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

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ANIMAL FARM

A FAIRY STORY

A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

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ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE

Doerr presents us with two intricate stories, both of which take place during World War II; late in the novel, inevitably, they intersect.

In August 1944, Marie-Laure LeBlanc is a blind 16-year-old living in the walled port city of Saint-Malo in Brittany and hoping to escape the effects of Allied bombing. D-Day took place two months earlier, and Cherbourg, Caen and Rennes have already been liberated. She’s taken refuge in this city with her great-uncle Etienne, at first a fairly frightening figure to her. Marie-Laure’s father was a locksmith and craftsman who made scale models of cities that Marie-Laure studied so she could travel around on her own. He also crafted clever and intricate boxes, within which treasures could be hidden. Parallel to the story of Marie-Laure we meet Werner and Jutta Pfennig, a brother and sister, both orphans who have been raised in the Children’s House outside Essen, in Germany. Through flashbacks we learn that Werner had been a curious and bright child who developed an obsession with radio transmitters and receivers, both in their infancies during this period. Eventually, Werner goes to a select technical school and then, at 18, into the Wehrmacht, where his technical aptitudes are recognized and he’s put on a team trying to track down illegal radio transmissions. Etienne and Marie-Laure are responsible for some of these transmissions, but Werner is intrigued since what she’s broadcasting is innocent—she shares her passion for Jules Verne by reading aloud 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. A further subplot involves Marie-Laure’s father’s having hidden a valuable diamond, one being tracked down by Reinhold von Rumpel, a relentless German sergeant-major.

Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

Pub Date: May 6, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4658-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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