Sunday, November 3, 2013

another excerpt from The Italics Are Mine

From page 314, by Nina Berberova:

So, in the summer of 1927 I read Envy, which made the strongest literary impression on me in many years. It was and remained for me a great event in Soviet literature, very likely even greater than Pasternak's Waves. Before me was a story by a young, original, talented writer, very much alive to his own time, a man who knew how to write and in a completely modern way as no one in Russia had before him, with a sense of measure and taste, knowing how to interweave drama and irony, pain and joy, and in whom literary techniques combined with the inner devices of his personal inversions in an oblique presentation of reality. He depicted people without embracing the rigid law of 'realism', on his own plane, against the background of his own personal vision of the world, with all the freshness of a unique and original perception. I realized that Olesha was one of the few now in Russia who understood undercurrent in a text and its role in a prose work, who had a mastery of prose rhythm, grotesque fantasy, hyperbole, musical effects, and unexpected turns of the imagination. Olesha's consciousness of his goals, control over achieving them, and the exquisite balance of the novel were striking. Something had been built or created, linked not to Gladkov's Cement, to Gorky's Mother or even to Chernyshevsky's What Can Be Done? -- but directly to Bely's Petersburg, The Overcoat, Notes from the Underground, the greatest works of our time. 


  1. This is as much fun as a box of cockroaches, as a friend of mine used to say.

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