BETWEEN HEAVEN AND HELL: The Story of a Thousand Years of Artistic Life in Russia by W. Bruce Lincoln

BETWEEN HEAVEN AND HELL: The Story of a Thousand Years of Artistic Life in Russia

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A Russian historian explores 1,000 years of Russian art within the context of ongoing political repression and brutality and a search for Russian identity. Lincoln (The Conquest of a Continent, 1993, etc.), whose writings are usually focused on political history, here presents a grand synthesis of Russia's artistic life in an effort to illuminate the ongoing struggles that paved the road to that country's enduring masterpieces. Lincoln's densely footnoted history will be welcomed by those seeking a comprehensive overview of Russian arts. But those seeking deeper insight or a new interpretation of Russian artistic life will be disappointed. As its title suggests, this volume leans heavily on exaggerated and dramatic frameworks. Conflicts and debates that have determined Russian political and artistic development for centuries dominate the narrative but do not lend it direction or depth. Thus, themes such as the ""eternal Russian dilemma"" of being caught between East and West, the chasm between Russia's elites and her masses, and the ongoing struggle against censorship and brutal political repression appear more as self-fulfilling prophesies than as real explanations for artistic endeavors. The chronically overwritten style detracts from Lincoln's narrative (Russian folk motifs were ""elevated into the artistic stratosphere"" by works of an; Crime and Punishment ""catapulted him [Dostoyevsky] to the pinnacle of greatness""), which is also marred by an overly passionate veneration of Russian national culture, revering the achievements of 19th-century Russia as the result of their uniquely Russian character. Flawed in its conception and narrative style, Lincoln's sweeping consideration of artistic life in Russia nevertheless offers a stimulating read because of the sheer power of its subject matter.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1998
Page count: 544pp
Publisher: Viking