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Oberiu: An Anthology of Russian Absurdism (European Classics) Paperback – August 14, 2006

4.5 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The three writers of OBERIU, a group active between 1927 and 1930, were all persecuted by Stalin: Alexander Vvedensky died on a prison train in 1941, Daniil Kharms died of starvation in a prison psychiatric hospital in 1942, and Nikolai Zabolotsky spent eight years in exile, despite having produced Stalinist verse "of unprecedented quality." Editor Ostashevsky, himself a poet (Iterature; Infinite Recursor, or the Bride of DJ Spinoza) introduces the three as "sometimes described as Russia's last avant-garde"-since the pressure from Stalin was all-seeing and unrelenting. He includes three poets not part of the group but associated with it: Nikolai Oleinikov, Leonid Lipavsky and Yakov Druskin, and the result is a representative collection of a major movement (from which, as Ostashevsky points out, a great deal of work has been lost or destroyed), much of it translated for the first time by Ostashevsky and Matvei Yankelevich (The Present Work). For anyone interested in Soviet literature, this book fills an enormous gap. It also presents some beautiful, heartbreaking poetry.
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Review

"OBERIU, sometimes called Russia's last avant-garde, is one of the most intriguing--and little known--movements of the years before World War II. The absurdist poets at its center--Alexander Vvedensky, Daniil Kharms, and Nikolai Zabolotsky--belonged to the first generation of writers to come of age after the October Revolution and hence stand apart from their Futurist predecessors. Less interested in coining neologisms than in destroying the protocols of semantic coherence and linguistic realism, these poets have produced a series of inventive, free-wheeling, and often hilarious poetic texts in a variety of forms and genres. This anthology, the first large-scale English translation of OBERIU poetry, has been superbly edited and translated by the Russo-American poet Eugene Ostashevsky and his colleagues. In avant-garde annals, this is a milestone." -- Marjorie Perloff

"The OBERIU writers are a revelation, an aspect of Russian modernism in the early Soviet period that has been largely invisible to readers in English, and these translations are brilliant, as nervy and funny and demotic as if the work were written in an inspired English in the first place." -- Robert Hass
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 296 pages
  • Publisher: Northwestern University Press; 1st edition (August 14, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0810122936
  • ISBN-13: 978-0810122932
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.9 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #171,419 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Matvei E. Yankelevich on February 18, 2007
Format: Paperback
The OBERIU anthology, put together with great care and sound scholarship by Eugene Ostashevsky, is an important publication, if only because much of the materials translated therein are published for the English reader for the very first time. As one of the co-translators of this anthology, I won't speak to the quality of the translations, though I think they are at least a sincere and valiant effort to bring into English a most complicated group of Russian writings from the early Soviet period.

Some important information about the anthology is missing from the general Amazon description:

First of all, the anthology is EDITED by Eugene Ostashevsky. But the authors of the works included in Northwestern Univ. Press's "OBERIU" Anthology are:

1. Daniil Kharms (poet, playwright, prose-miniaturist)

2. Alexander Vvedensky (considered the most radical poet of the group)

3. Nikolai Zabolotsky (poet)

4. Leonid Lipavsky (philosopher)

5. Nikolai Oleinikov (poet)

6. Iakov Druskin (philosopher, music theorist, theologian)

Some of the original members of the Oberiu group (founded in 1928) whose texts were not included in the anthology are:

1. the poet and revered prose-modernist Konstantin Vaginov

2. and the poet Igor Bakhterev (the youngest member of the group)

I hope this short comment will help those who are interested in the works of the so-called OBERIU writers (or Russian Absurdists as they are sometimes referred to), find out more about these audacious artists, unique thinkers, and innovative writers.
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Format: Paperback
I used this to introduce Russian absurdism to my creative writing class, and they loved it. The variety of styles here--poetry, play, prose, short-short, dialogue--make it great for teaching form, as well as introducing any literarure or creative class to the genre of Russian absurdism. The introduction, written by NYU Lit. professor Eugene Ostashevsky, is a very clear (but not dumbed down) explanation of the Oberiu movement, their purpose and place in Russian history--if, like me, you're not qualified to explain it to students yourself. Also, the selection and pieces here are great. The Kharms especially. I'd never read Alexander Vvedensky before and now he's one of my favorite writers. (Check out "A Certain Quantity of Conversations," which is a brilliant play, of sorts, in ten mini-acts). I'd rec. this book for anyone who's a writer (great for inspiration) or teacher. Or who just wants to read something different and hilarious.
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Format: Paperback
I must admit, I'm baffled by the lack of publicity for this extraordinary book. I mean, not a peep. So I've taken it upon myself to copy the following quotes from its back cover:

"OBERIU, sometimes called Russia's last avant-garde, is one of the most intriguing and little-known movements of the years before World War II. The absurdist poets at its center--Alexander Vvedensky, Daniil Kharms, and Nikolai Zabolotsky--belonged to the first generation of writers to come of age after the October Revolution and hence stand apart from their futurist predecessors. Less interested in coining neologisms than in `destroying the protocols of semantic coherence and linguistic realism,' these poets have produced a series of inventive, freewheeling, and often hilarious poetic texts in a variety of forms and genres. This anthology, the first large-scale English translation of OBERIU poetry, has been superbly edited and translated by the Russo-American poet Eugene Ostashevsky and his colleagues. In avant-garde annals, this is a milestone."--Marjorie Perloff

"The OBERIU writers are a revelation, an aspect of Russian modernism in the early Soviet period that has been largely invisible to readers in English, and these translations are brilliant, as nervy and funny and demotic as if the work were written in an inspired English in the first place."--Robert Hass
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