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Zoo, or Letters Not About Love Paperback – October 1, 2001

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Zoo, or Letters Not About Love + A Sentimental Journey: Memoirs, 1917-1922 (Russian Literature Series) + Theory of Prose (Russian Literature Series)
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 164 pages
  • Publisher: Dalkey Archive Press (October 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1564783111
  • ISBN-13: 978-1564783110
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 6.8 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #586,104 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

The Russian Shklovsky's own infatuation with a woman led to this epistolary novel set in 1922 in which a man is permitted to write to a woman named Alya under the condition that he not talk about love. During the subsequent correspondence, the author makes observations about Russian life, art, literature etc., all of which under the surface really are about love.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.


"... a work of gossip, allusion and esoteric reference, with devices -- some typographical -- which Shklovsky borrowed from Sterne, whom he much admired. " -- John Bayley, Listener

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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By E. Greber on September 26, 2005
Format: Paperback
Viktor Shklovsky's epistolary novel "Zoo," written and published in Berlin 1922-1923, is one of the most remarkable and ingenuous epistolary novels ever written, for the very reason that it manages a cross-over between theory and literature as well as between fiction and life. It is rare in its combination of deep emotion and sharp reflection: a moving evocation of the pain of exile and unrequited love and, at the same time, witty metaliterary play. "Zoo" reshapes the traditional epistolary novel in metafictional style and revitalizes it by blurring the borders between documentary and poetic epistolarity. This can be taken quite literal in view of the textual genesis: the novel is said to mix fictional letters with real ones, letters that were or might have been exchanged (in a rather one-sided correspondence) between the young critic and the lady he courted, between the novelistic `I' and his beloved Alya, alias Viktor Shklovsky and Elsa Triolet (a Russian emigrant like himself and a future French writer). Shklovsky composed the little book in Berlin after fleeing from the Soviet Union, and it is a document of his own intermediary existence in the limbo of exile as well as a kind of ethnography of `Russian Berlin'. But to take the work simply from the autobiographical side would mean to under-estimate its theoretical drive. Not only does it thematize Formalist ideas (as could be expected in a text whose protagonist is a theorist), but it is constructed on such principles, or more precisely: it is performing them.

Shklovsky's "Zoo" harks back to Sterne's "Tristram Shandy" and German Romanticism and it anticipates postmodern ideas of a playful merging of criticism and fiction. Within the generic development of the epistolary novel, "Zoo" is the hallmark of modernity.
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By Witold on August 5, 2013
Format: Paperback
I think this epistolary novel has great historical value but it is not a masterpiece of literature in any way. It is rather disjointed and bumpy. It certainly could be funny and entertaining to read for someone who lived at or around that time but for today's reader the book is just a rather puzzling witness to a very complex era of European history. It has certainly great value to the history and the theory of the development of Russian/Soviet literature.
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