1917: Stories and Poems from the Russian Revolution

1917: Stories and Poems from the Russian Revolution

1917: Stories and Poems from the Russian Revolution is a collection of literary responses to one of the most cataclysmic events in modern world history, which exposes the immense conflictedness and doubt, conviction and hope, pessimism and optimism which political events provoked among contemporary writers - sometimes at the same time, even in the same person. This dazzlin...

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Title:1917: Stories and Poems from the Russian Revolution
Author:Boris Dralyuk
Rating:
ISBN:1782272143
Edition Language:English
Format Type:Paperback
Number of Pages:236 pages

1917: Stories and Poems from the Russian Revolution Reviews

  • Gill
    Oct 21, 2016

    '1917: Stories and Poems from the Russian Revolution' by Various Authors, edited by Boris Dralyuk

    3.5 stars/ 7 out of 10

    I have read several books already about the Russian Revolution, and was interested in reading this volume in order to expand my knowledge of this era.

    The first third of the book is poetry. The poems are arranged into six sections; each has an introduction regarding the poets in that section, placing them in context (not only covering the period of the poems, but also relating to

    '1917: Stories and Poems from the Russian Revolution' by Various Authors, edited by Boris Dralyuk

    3.5 stars/ 7 out of 10

    I have read several books already about the Russian Revolution, and was interested in reading this volume in order to expand my knowledge of this era.

    The first third of the book is poetry. The poems are arranged into six sections; each has an introduction regarding the poets in that section, placing them in context (not only covering the period of the poems, but also relating to the rest of their lives). I found these introductions very clear and very interesting.

    Whilst some of the poets, such as Akhmatova and Mandelstam, were known to me, many of them were new to me. I was pleased to have this opportunity to read samples of so many poets' work. However I don't feel the urge to read anything further by any of these 'new' poets. My favourite poem of them all was 'The Twelve' by Alexander Blok.

    The second part of the book is prose works, again with explanatory introductions to each section. (Although the title of the book suggests that these works are all fiction, several of them are not.) This part was much more interesting than I expected. It ranged from the acerbic nature of 'The Guillotine' by Teffi, to the drama of Zamyatin's 'The Dragon'.

    I found this volume interesting and informative.

    Thank you to Pushkin Press and to NetGalley for an ARC.

  • Ren
    Oct 24, 2016

    In college I took a class in Russian Literature of the Silver Age. This is the period of the late 19th/early 20th century when Russian literature reached impressive creative heights. It was such an enlightening course, and introduced me to many of the names that come up in this collection: Tsvetaeva, Mayakovsky, Gippius, Blok, Bely, Gumilev, and of course, Akhmatova – all the regulars, once you’re familiar with the period. It also inspired in me a deep love for any writing coming out of this era

    In college I took a class in Russian Literature of the Silver Age. This is the period of the late 19th/early 20th century when Russian literature reached impressive creative heights. It was such an enlightening course, and introduced me to many of the names that come up in this collection: Tsvetaeva, Mayakovsky, Gippius, Blok, Bely, Gumilev, and of course, Akhmatova – all the regulars, once you’re familiar with the period. It also inspired in me a deep love for any writing coming out of this era, so much so that my heart really does skip a beat when I read or see anything connected to it, like with this title. I hope this collection might bring that passion for this literary sphere to other readers. It’s an excellent sampling of selected works of all of the luminaries I mentioned and many others, both household names even in the English-speaking literary world (Pasternak, Bulgakov) and the lesser known but influential.

    The editor, Boris Dralyuk, acts as a curator and separates the pieces thematically, singling out common themes that relate to the works of this period and tie to the historical events the authors found themselves living through. Each section begins with some academic background providing context for what was going on and about the authors themselves – their specific kind of work, connection to the revolution and its events, perception of their work. This makes the collection very accessible even to anyone who has zero background or previous knowledge of the era or this type of literature.

    I was interested in reading it for the poetry, to see some different translations of pieces I already knew and hopefully come across some new ones, but the prose was excellent as well. The Remizov and Bulgakov pieces are completely excellent. In addition to much of that particularly Russian sense of dark gallows humor paired with the ridiculous, I noticed the theme, over and over, of Russia as a distinct personality and the authors in mourning for what has been suffered and endured with hopes for healing and a return to normalcy in the future. There’s a strong, often uneasy sense of foreboding in every selection here, knowing as we do what was still to come. But this collection is so evocative of the time, the fear and uncertainty and the kind of anticipatory electricity in the air before a storm.

    I would’ve liked a little more emphasis on poetry – sometimes after reading the introductory section buildup I was disappointed when there were only a few poems in the section. But it’s also because I’m in love with poetry of this era and always want to read more and different translations. And I think there are some poems that are even a bit more evocative of the times, the tension, and the atmosphere than what’s included here. I would’ve liked to have seen more. But overall, a great collection for both the newly curious and familiar readers in time for the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution.

    I received an advance copy courtesy of the publisher for review.

  • Joseph
    Oct 02, 2016

    edited by Borris Dralyuk is a collection of Russian writing from the start of the revolution. Dralyuk is the Executive Editor of the Los Angeles Review of Books. He is a literary translator and holds a Ph.D. in Slavic Languages and Literatures from UCLA, where he taught Russian literature for a number of years. He has also taught at the University of St Andrews, Scotland.

    Through the 1930s to the fall of the Soviet Union, many writers both insi

    edited by Borris Dralyuk is a collection of Russian writing from the start of the revolution. Dralyuk is the Executive Editor of the Los Angeles Review of Books. He is a literary translator and holds a Ph.D. in Slavic Languages and Literatures from UCLA, where he taught Russian literature for a number of years. He has also taught at the University of St Andrews, Scotland.

    Through the 1930s to the fall of the Soviet Union, many writers both inside and exiled from the Soviet Union wrote about the system. Solzhenitsyn's

    , Ayn Rand's

    , Katayev's

    , and Babel's

    all tell of the Soviet state after it had been established. There is plenty of literature both pro and anti-Soviet written after the state had been created. Dralyuk, however, chooses stories and poetry from 1917 and the Russian Civil War.

    Many people do not realize that there were years of civil war between the abdication of Nicholas II and the establishment of the Soviet Union. There is little doubt that the people of Russia wanted change. Flair ups of revolt were a regular part of late Czarist Russia -- Alexander II's Assassination, 1905 Revolution, resistance to WWI. The people wanted change. They demanded change, but the change they found was not what most wanted. Russia was a country where the majority of the population was uneducated. When the Bolsheviks took power in 1917 38% of the male population was literate and only 12.5% of the female population was literate. Russia was a very backward country at the time and the thought of revolution from below seems very improbable.

    The poetry and prose reflect this. One writer tells of a street revolutionary yelling to the crowd not to allow “Ann Exations” back into the country. The writer, Teffi, explains the speaker believed annexation was a woman. Likewise, an old woman prays for the 'reactionary hydra" who might raise its head again. The descriptions of the "Wine Riots" show the level of the common person in Russia. It might seem unbelievable but then too almost 1,400 people died in a stampede for free beer at the coronation of Nicholas II. What many expect is hyperbole was reality in Russia. When hyperbole is used it seems to be something from one's wildest imagination. Teffi also writes a story called "Guillotine", dedicated to Trotsky, tells of Russians facing the guillotine in typical Russian fashion, complaining while standing in line and fighting their way to the front.

    Not everyone was against the revolution. Mikhail Gerasimov shows the hope of revolution -- "Fed by the dream of Communism I stoked the furnace with new power, intoxicated by its rhythm, I forged iron flowers." Mayakovsky writes of the glories of the revolution. Another writes that among the peasants and soldiers the conversion from Orthodox Christianity to socialism and atheism was as easy as splashing fresh water on themselves in a bath house -- a new baptism and new faith easily accepted.

    Russia is a country that one writer called “Cain’s land” rather than the favored Abel’s land. Dralyuk captures this aspect of Russia by putting together a collection literature encompassing both sides of the Russian Civil War and the chaos that ensued. It is easy to look back at history and write about it. Here writers and poets wrote something akin to live reporting the civil war. Many times we look back at history and wonder, “What were they thinking?” Dralyuk actually shows us what the people were thinking. Perhaps one of the most famous writers to grow out of the period describes the chaos that became Russia. “And so, while over there in the West resounds with the clatter of the machines of creation, our country resounds end to end with the clattering of machine guns.” ~ Mikhail Bulgakov

  • Lena♥Ribka
    Oct 29, 2016

    I'm a bit like Bob Dylan at the moment. Speechless.

    I'm not a regular non-fiction & anthologies reader. But I enormously enjoyed this collection.

    I saw some names that mean a lot to me, and I became curious. Russian Soviet classic in English? Why not? The end result: I stayed AWAKE the half of the night. I was hooked, I was amazed, I was proud to be able also to read ALL of these authors in the original language. But I have to admit that I d

    I'm a bit like Bob Dylan at the moment. Speechless.

    I'm not a regular non-fiction & anthologies reader. But I enormously enjoyed this collection.

    I saw some names that mean a lot to me, and I became curious. Russian Soviet classic in English? Why not? The end result: I stayed AWAKE the half of the night. I was hooked, I was amazed, I was proud to be able also to read ALL of these authors in the original language. But I have to admit that I didn't know many names, and I googled and as a result -I learned a lot.

    And OMG how UP TO DATE these stories are!..

    Boris Dralyuk made a great job. The important historical facts that give insights into this turbulent and fateful period of time, that filled the places between the stories and poems, and brilliantly chosen literary fragments...WOW.

  • Donna Davis
    Nov 09, 2016

    I received my DRC for this collection courtesy of Net Galley and Pushkin Press. I thank them for the opportunity to read and review; this compilation of poetry and prose will be for sale on December 13, 2016. What a crying shame it’s so negative.

    There are a few of us left out here—dinosaurs, to be sure—that regard the initial two or three years of the Russian Revolution as an inspirational time, a time when the working class and the Russian peasantry cast off their shackles, ran the brutal, enti

    I received my DRC for this collection courtesy of Net Galley and Pushkin Press. I thank them for the opportunity to read and review; this compilation of poetry and prose will be for sale on December 13, 2016. What a crying shame it’s so negative.

    There are a few of us left out here—dinosaurs, to be sure—that regard the initial two or three years of the Russian Revolution as an inspirational time, a time when the working class and the Russian peasantry cast off their shackles, ran the brutal, entitled royal family and their minions out of power and eventually to a richly deserved death, and took control of their lives and their nation. When I saw this collection, I believed that this perspective would be represented here somewhere.

    Instead, we read poetry about the Tsar’s wine. Oh, no! They destroyed all that expensive wine! Give me a break. Millions of peasants freed from bondage, and all we hear about is the wine casks, and some sorrowful reflections that lament the defeat of the Mensheviks—the party that tried to halt the progress of the revolution and create a bourgeois democratic state. All those sorrowful White Russians weeping into their vodka.

    Do I have a bias? Of course I do, but unlike our editor here, I admit mine. The introduction to this thing, which is overlong and somewhat duplicitous, tells us that rather than relate the various political positions that were held during this cataclysmic time, we should instead look at feelings, at experiences. But everyone’s feelings during this tremendous upheaval, a time when the news footage at the time of the revolution shows throngs of joyful Russian workers screaming with enthusiasm, is apparently either sorrowful—aw geez, the poor royals—or conflicted. Not one person is glad it happened.

    Poetry and prose are, at their root, political, and in rewriting history, Dralyuk demonstrates this. This collection is revisionist dross.

    One other comment I’d make is that when editors decide to republish historic writing, they are often deluded as to how much of their own prose readers are looking for. For every piece, for every author, there is way too much introductory narrative. I really just want to read the work itself, not so much Dralyuk’s discussion of them. Had I enjoyed most of the poetry and prose, I would have upgraded this review to three stars and stated that it is hard to find the original work amidst the rambling discussion. Generally, the poem is short, the introduction is long; lather, rinse, repeat. The same is true of the prose.

    So to those lonely Marxists out there hoping for literature, for poetry that’s in English and available readily in the US, I have to say, put that plastic away, because this isn’t that.

  • Lisa
    Oct 31, 2016

    Disclaimer: I received an e-copy of this book on NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

    This collection of poems and short stories combines literature from the start of the Russian Revolution around 1917 to the Russian Civil War. It features of broad spectrum of authors and opinions, some of them stood wholeheartedly behind the revolution, others only did at first and realized later it was not what they wanted and others again hated what was happening.

    The first third of the book consists out

    Disclaimer: I received an e-copy of this book on NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

    This collection of poems and short stories combines literature from the start of the Russian Revolution around 1917 to the Russian Civil War. It features of broad spectrum of authors and opinions, some of them stood wholeheartedly behind the revolution, others only did at first and realized later it was not what they wanted and others again hated what was happening.

    The first third of the book consists out of poetry. Before each poems we get a good introduction to the poets’ life and the current political situation in Russia. This definitely added a lot of depth and helped me understand this time period quite a bit better.

    The second part of the book consists out of prose and each short story had an explanatory introduction prefacing it. Some of the stories were fictional, others were not. I quite enjoyed reading them, it gave me a very vivid picture of the historical situation in Russia. It sometimes like reading a live report of the civil war and it was an interesting insight in people’s lives.

    As I sadly don’t really know anything about the Russian Revolution this collection definitely made me interested in reading more about that time period. It however made it sometimes hard for me to really understand what was going on exactly and I kind of want to read up historical facts about that time period and re-read this anthology. Perhaps I will enjoy it more.

  • Warwick
    Oct 31, 2016

    A timely and, for me, revelatory collection of poems and short stories from revolutionary Russia, including contributions from famous names (Mandelstam, Pasternak, Bulgakov, Akhmatova) as well as from many more fascinating and obscure writers like Vasily Rozanov, Alexander Grin, or Mikhail Prishvin. All these contributors are contextualised well by editor Boris Dralyuk's excellent chapter introductions; it will be a dull reader indeed who doesn't get through his potted biographies without feelin

    A timely and, for me, revelatory collection of poems and short stories from revolutionary Russia, including contributions from famous names (Mandelstam, Pasternak, Bulgakov, Akhmatova) as well as from many more fascinating and obscure writers like Vasily Rozanov, Alexander Grin, or Mikhail Prishvin. All these contributors are contextualised well by editor Boris Dralyuk's excellent chapter introductions; it will be a dull reader indeed who doesn't get through his potted biographies without feeling a strong need to pursue some of their subjects further.

    He limits this anthology to works written before 1920, which is quite a severe limitation given that current events rarely intrude into literature until some years after the fact. (A comparable anthology of War on Terror literature published within three years of 9/11 would, for instance, exclude DeLillo's

    , Pynchon's

    , Hamid's

    , McEwan's

    and Foer's

    .) So what we have here is less a considered literary verdict and more a jumble of immediate, often visceral, reactions.

    The poetry for me worked less well than the prose, though perhaps it's just harder to translate. Even here there is plenty to enjoy, though – I particularly liked the measured serenity of the Osip Mandelstam poem which begins:

    Most of the extracts either adopt a tone of near-apocalyptic tragedy over the events of 1917 or, by contrast, get swept up in feverish excitement at the possibilities. A few have the poise to look at things with more narrative distance – most notably the examples from Teffi, who has now gone to the top of my reading list. One is a satire about a near-future where citizens must present themselves to be executed; trying to get to the guillotine on time, the protagonists haggle with their taxi-driver and complain about queue-jumpers. It is full-on Pythonesque, and very funny. The second piece is a sort of political sketch from among the crowds, where we get an amazing first-hand look at some of the slogans being shouted by activists on street corners:

    The settings presented in the collection range from the streets of Moscow and Petrograd to what Alexey Remizov rather beautifully describes as the ‘wild mountains and […] boundless Gogolian steppes’ of rural Russia; some even take place in fantasy worlds. Though, as I said, there are some writers here who find the whole thing undeniably exciting, it has to be said that most of them are at best sceptical about the Bolshevik takeover, and many are horrified by it.

    But for or against, almost everyone profiled here seems to have agreed that what was happening was supremely Russian. Perhaps that's why so many of the poems and stories seem to focus on some essential idea of Russia – a Russia that for some of them was struggling to be born, and for others was gone forever. The prospects that the new regime held for literature are illustrated well by considering how many of Dralyuk's biographical summaries end rather early, with a sentence about Stalinist cultural purges.

  • Eadweard
    Jan 11, 2017

    POETRY

    Marina Tsvetaeva

     Zinaida Gippius

    Osip Mandelstam

    Anna Akhmatova

    Boris Pasternak

    Mikhail Kuzmin

    Sergey Esenin

    Mikhail Gerasimov

    Vladimir Kirillov

    Aleksey Kraysky

    Andrey Bely

    Alexander Blok

    Titsian Tabidze

    Pavlo Tychyna

    Vladimir Mayakovsky

    PROSE

    Alexander Kuprin

    Valentin Kataev

    Aleksandr Serafimovich

    Dovid Bergelson

    Teffi

    Vasily Rozanov

    Aleksey Remizov

    Yefim Zozulya

    Yevgeny Zamyatin

    Aleksandr Grin

    Mikhail Prishvin

    Mikhail Zoshchenko

    Mikhail Bulgakov

  • Mandy
    Dec 04, 2016

    Exactly what it says it is – a collection of poetry and prose written by leading Russian authors at the time of the 1917 revolution. Comprehensive and varied, well-translated, and certainly a treat for Russian literature enthusiasts, it’s also an accessible and enjoyable anthology for those less well acquainted with the writers featured.

  • Janet
    Mar 16, 2017

    Having spent the last decade writing a novel set during the Russian Revolution, I was thrilled to come across this brand-new anthology of poetry and prose not just about those events, but written while they were still taking place. There are times in life when historical change is so great that people can barely take a breath, let alone get perspective or bearing on their moment in history.

    The late twenties were full of marvelous books about the Revolution and the Civil War, such as Babel’s Red

    Having spent the last decade writing a novel set during the Russian Revolution, I was thrilled to come across this brand-new anthology of poetry and prose not just about those events, but written while they were still taking place. There are times in life when historical change is so great that people can barely take a breath, let alone get perspective or bearing on their moment in history.

    The late twenties were full of marvelous books about the Revolution and the Civil War, such as Babel’s Red Cavalry and Bulgakov’s White Guard, novels and poetry written from both the émigré and the Soviet perspective. But this book fills a unique place on the bookshelf because it helps us understand how it feels to be in the midst of such overwhelming change, without any idea how it will all settle out. It’s a lot like being in a rollover car accident as everything you’ve tossed onto the floor begins to rain down your head. The immediacy of these poems and short fictions is what grabs you, the way people tried to understand what was happening as the events were occurring. It speaks a lot to our own time of unbelieveably rapid political shifts, and how one might find something to say about this experience. 2017 is the hundredth anniversary of the Russian Revolution and the echoes to the present day are everywhere.

    The book's poems and fictions are grouped in fascinating and surprising ways. Certain writers one would never think of in the same breath—like the cosmopolitan, openly homosexual Mikhail Kuzmin and the precocious bad-boy peasant poet Sergei Yesenin, yet their poems both embrace the revolution and are invigorated by it, though Kuzmin perfectly exemplifies the confusion of such rapid change:

    It seems a century has passed, or just one week!

    What week? A single day!

    Its editor, Boris Dralyuk, wonderfully contextualizes each group of two or three writers, bringing the reader into a literary scene marked by circles like families into which these works were born.

    In general, the poems in this volume are more well-known than the fiction. Poets can respond very quickly to changes in events, where fiction writers often take years to ‘digest’ events. Many of these poets were already in their maturity at the time of the Revolution in what’s known as the Silver Age of Russian literature (Pushkin’s being the Golden).

    Here are the fiery, iconoclastic Tsvetaeva, the decadent, rancorous Zinaida Gippius, and the clarity of deeply cultured Mandelstam. There’s a beautiful translation of his famous “Let’s praise O brothers, liberty’s dim light...”

    the great and somber year!

    A forest of thick snares is plunged

    into the boiling waters of the night.

    You are ascending into god-forsaken years,

    O people—sun and judge.

    ....

    We have bound swallows

    into warring legions—now

    we cannot see the sun...

    Here’s the grave, brave dignity of Anna Akhmatova, in a stunning new translation of one of her most famous poems--“When the nation, suicidal...”--a poem about the temptation to emigrate:

    “I heard a voice. It called to me.

    “come here,” it spoke consolingly,

    “and leave your senseless, sinful land,

    abandon Russia for all time.

    I’ll scrub your hands free of the blood,

    I’ll take away your bitter shame,

    I’ll soothe the pain of loss

    and insults with a brand new name.”

    But cool and calm, I stopped my ears,

    refused to hear it,

    not letting that unworthy speech

    defile my grieving spirit.”

    There are also worker-poets like Gerasimov, including his beautiful poem, “Iron Flowers”:

    “I forged my iron flowers/

    beneath a workshop’s smoky dome—"

    Most impressive, there are two brand new full-length translations of the great Silver Age poet Aleksander Blok’s monumental long-poems The Twelve and The Scythians. The Twelve, about twelve Red Guardsmen making their tour of Revolutionary Petrograd (St. Petersburg) streets during a blizzard, uses the language of the street and the Revolution in a brand new way, and it seems less obscure in this translation than it usually does. And the lesser-known poem, The Scythians, about Russia’s historical role to be a buffer between Europe and the invading Mongols, is Blok going out in a blaze of glory.

    For me, the jewel of the poetry section, and probably the book as a whole, is a single translation--Pasternak’s “Spring Rain.” Pasternak as a nature poet was every bit the equal of rambunctious Yesenin, yet more than that golden hooligan, Pasternak was a deep, cultured, subtle thinker to rival Mandelstam, with an enormous heart all his own.

    Although Pasternak’s Dr. Zhivago, his great novel about the Revolution, published in the 1960’s in the West, shows much of his poetic ability, and his descriptions of nature are always glorious, I often find his poetry difficult. This translation of “Spring Rain” helped me get my mind around Pasternak the poet and how he writes. He’s like a garden laid out by a master, so that the whole isn’t visible from any one point, you have to walk down its paths, and let it unfold for you slowly, until you can take in the whole.

    “It grinned to the bird-cherry, sobbed and soaked

    the gloss of carriages, the flutter of pines

    Under the bulging moon, fiddlers in single file

    make their way to the theater. Citizens, form lines!

    Puddles on stone. Like a throat full of tears,

    deep in the heart of a rose’s furnace

    damp diamonds burn, and on them, on clouds,

    on eyelids, the wet lash of happiness...

    The second half of 1917 is devoted to prose work. It would be a few years before the great novels and collections about the Revolution would began to emerge. Yet Boris Dralyuk has found wonderful examples of stories and other prose from the period, such as the ascerbic humorist Teffi, who makes her appearance with two pieces. One “A few Words about Lenin,” certainly will sound familiar:

    “...actually, if Lenin were to talk about a meeting at which he, Zinoviev, Kamenev and five horses were present, he would say, ‘There were eight of us.’”

    In a short story “The Guillotine,” Teffi presents an absurdist little tale about how the bourgeoisie makes way for its own destruction. It begins as a friend of the family drops in at dinnertime and is invited to stay:

    “No, I can’t. I’m in a hurry. I only popped in to say goodbye. I’m due to be guillotined tomorrow.”

    “But Vera darling!” we exclaimed. “What a wonderful coincidence. We’re all scheduled for tomorrow!”

    “Spend the night at my place,” I said. “We can all go together...”

    “Sasha and Yasha” by Kuprin is a classic, its heroes a pilot and his little sister’s pet stuffed monkey which becomes his totem. “The Drum” by Kataev, which follows a boy in cadet school who joins the school orchestra so he can visit his girlfriend an extra hour a week, shows the sudden changes in the boys' lives as the revolution breaks out. There’s a sobering small essay by Bulgakov, who fought on the White side in the South, and a furious little piece by Zoshchenko, who later became a well-known humorist, bemoaning the worship of the strong--very resonant for our times. Stories by Zamiatin, Alexander Grin, and Prishvin, were other favorites in the collection.

    It is a gripping and emotionally challenging experience to read these Russian writers struggling with and reacting to the turmoil of their times exactly one hundred years ago, and to see many of the same issues which are coming back to haunt us in different clothing.