Diary, 1901-1969


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Kornei Chukovsky; Edited by Victor Erlich; Translated by Michael Henry Heim

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A perceptive literary critic, a world-famous writer of witty and playful verses for children, a leading authority on children’s linguistic creativity, and a highly skilled translator, Kornei Chukovsky was a complete man of letters. As benefactor to many writers including Alexander Solzhenitsyn and Joseph Brodsky, he stood for several decades at the center of the Russian literary milieu. It is no exaggeration to claim that Chukovsky knew everyone involved in shaping the course of twentieth-century Russian literature. His voluminous diary, here translated into English for the first time, begins in prerevolutionary Russia and spans nearly the entire Soviet era. It is the candid commentary of a brilliant observer who documents fifty years of Soviet literary activity and the personal predicament of the writer under a totalitarian regime.
From descriptions of friendship with such major literary figures as Anna Akhmatova and Isaac Babel to accounts of the struggle with obtuse and hostile censorship, from the heartbreaking story of the death of the daughter who had inspired so many stories to candid political statements, the extraordinary diary of Kornei Chukovsky is a unique account of the twentieth-century Russian experience.

Victor Erlich is B. E. Bensinger Professor Emeritus of Russian Literature at Yale University. Among his many books on twentiethcentury Russian literature are Russian Formalism and Modernism and Revolution, both published by Yale University Press.

“Kornei Chukovsky’s diary opens a window into the world of the Russian intelligentsia over a long and tumultuous period. We are drawn into the story of a young provincial trying to make a literary career; we are treated to close-ups of prominent political and cultural figures; we hear the everyday voices of virtually every notable writer and critic among Chukovsky’s contemporaries.”—Carol J. Avins, Rutgers University

“Diary—in a long-overdue English version smoothly translated by Michael Henry Heim and edited by Victor Erlich—reveals itself to be the most illuminating record by any Russian writer of the author’s time. . . . In a country where cultural memory outlasts granite or bronze, Chukovsky was more than anyone the living museum of his time.”—Rebecca Reich, BookForum

"This work captures the soul and structure of the literary community during the Soviet era. It serves as a window into the lives of many of Russia’s great literary figures . . . while also offering revealing accounts of the relationships between writers and Soviet censors. . . . As Chukovsky was a major and prolific literary figure in his own right, his diary describes the daily trails of a man of letters but also shows the passion and inspiration that makes it all worthwhile."—Library Journal

"...the publication of [this] translation, ...beautifully produced, is a welcome homage to Chukovsky, the most significant token of esteem afforded to him in the anglophone world since the award of an honorary degree by Oxford in 1962." - Catriona Kelly, Times Literary Supplement

"What an amazing document. Kornei Chukovsky, writer, critic, and children's author, kept diaries from the age of nineteen through virtually the last day of his life at age eighty-seven, and this weighty tome offers most of those diary entries in their entirety to the English-language reader for the first time. . . . This book is fascinating for the non-Slavist, especially those interested in the art of translation, children's literature, or Soviet literary politics from the inside."—Angela Brintlinger, The Russian Review

"The significance of the contents of Chukovsky's diary is undeniable, and it is for this reason that the edition is of value in translation to those for whom reading it in Russian may not be possible. . . . It is valuable to those interested in the pre-revolution, Stalinist, or post-Stalinist periods. One could employ the Diary in the literature-in-translation or history classroom as a first-person perspective of the trials and tribulations of the Russian intelligentsia prior to 1970. It can and should be integrated into scholarly and pedagogical contexts, as it is a wonderfully documented personal journey through art and politics during the lifetime of a legendary twentieth-century Russian intellectual figure, available for the first time in a thoughtfully executed translation."—Rachel Stauffer, Slavic and Eastern European Journal

Selected as an Outstanding Academic Title for 2006 by Choice Magazine

Winner of the 2006 American Association of Teachers of Slavic and Eastern European Languages Book Prize for Best Translation into English
ISBN: 9780300106114
Publication Date: September 9, 2005
656 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
8 pp. b/w illus.