Tbilisi: Akts. Obshchestvo Zakkniga, 1927. Octavo (22 × 14.5 cm). Original printed wrappers; 100 pp. Unopened and uncut. Spine extremities frayed; tiny chip to corner of front wrapper, still about very good. In protective mylar. Item #5337
First edition, and a scarce Georgian printing. A collection of critical essays about five Russian and Soviet contemporary writers – Andrei Bely, Yevgenii Zamyatin, Boris Pil'nyak, Konstantin Fedin, Leonid Leonov – by the literary theorist and writer Viktor Shklovsky. In 1916 Shklovsky (1893-1984) along with Boris Eikhenbaum and Osip Brik founded OPOIAZ (Society for the study of Poetic language), one of the two groups that developed the theories of Russian Formalism. In the essays collected in this book Shklovsky continues to champion formal analysis of literary texts, an approach that was becoming frowned upon by the late 1920s. The text’s publication in Tiflis (Tbilisi, Georgia) at a relative distance from Moscow where the author lived, may have been due to the growing distrust toward the formal method by the Soviet authorities which would turn into an outright persecution by the end of the decade.
Born and educated in St. Petersburg, Shklovsky took active part in the February Revolution. His subsequent distrust for the Bolsheviks, however, led to his numerous arrests. Distancing himself from political activity in the 1920s, Shklovsky dedicated himself to literary polemics, publishing actively in the avant-garde journal LEF (Left Front of the Arts) alongside Vladimir Mayakovsky, Osip Brik, Sergei Eisenstein and many others. Named as one of the most important literary theorists of the twentieth century by the Modern Languages Association, today Shklovsky is best remembered for coining the concept of “ostranenie” (estrangement or de-familiarization) as the key element of art. One of 3000 copies printed. KVK, OCLC show copies at Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Free University (Berlin), Harvard, UNC, Michigan, Indiana, Urbana-Champaign, Stanford, Berkeley, British Library, UCL and Cambridge.