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Soviet
and
Bast-Buropean
Drama, Theatre
and
1 t
Film
I .,.. /
Soviet
and
Bast-Buropean
Drama, Thea.tre
and.
F-ilm
VOLUME 6, Number 3
DECEMBER, 1986
SEEDTF is a publication of the Institute for Contemporary East-
ern European Drama and Theatre under the auspices of the Cen-
ter for Advanced Study in 1'heatre Arts, Graduate Center, City
University of New York with support from the National Endow-
ment for the Humanities and the Graduate School and the De-
partment of Foreign LaOuages a n ~ Literatures of George Mason
University. The Institute Office is Room 801, City University
Graduate Center, 33 West 42nd Street, New York, NY 10036.
All subscription requests and submissions should be addressed to
the Editor of SEEDTF: Leo Hecht, Department of Foreign Lan-
guages and Literatures, George Mason University, Fairfax, VA
22030. (Proofreading Editor: Prof. Rhonda Blair, Hampshire
College Theatre, Amherst, MA 01002.)
Table of Contents
Editorial Policy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4
Announcements . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . S
Bibliography . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
Call for papers .... ....... ......... . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
Films and Cassettes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8
"Sturua's Production of Richard III", Marie Tarsitano ..... 9
"The Man from the USSR and Other Plays,"
Spencer Golub ..... . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19
"Russian Drama from Its Beginnings to the
Age of Pushkin," Joseph C. Troncale . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23
"The King of Time, " Spencer Golub . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26
"Nostalghia," Leo Hecht .... ......................... 32
"Mikhail Shatrov," V AAP . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 36
f I
"Dialogue-USA" ...... _. ...... ....... ... . . ........ .. 46
The Next Issue ................................ .... . . 46
Order Blank ....................... ... .. .. . .. ... .. 47
3
I I
George Mason University
SEEDTF has a very liberal reprinting policy. Journals and news-
letters which desire to reproduce anicles, reviews and other mate-
rials which have appeared in SEEDTF may do so, as long as the
following provisions are met:
a. Permission to reprint must be requested from SEEDTF in writ-
ing before the fact.
b. Credit to SEEDTF must be given in the reprint.
c. Two copies of the publication if) which the reprinted material
has appeared must be furnished to the Editor of SEEDTF im-
mediately upon publication.
2
-
Editorial Policy
Manuscripts in the following categories are solicited: articles
of no more than 2,500 words; book reviews; performance re-
views; and bibliographies. It must be kept in mind that all of the
above submissions must concern themselves either with contem-
porary materials on Soviet or East European theatre and drama,
new approaches to older materials in recently published works,
and new performanco:es of. older plays. In other words, we would
welcome submissions reviewing innovative performances of Gogo!
or recently published books on Gogoltlor example, but we could
not use original articles discussing Gogo! as a playwright.
Although we welcome translations of articles and reviews
from foreign publications, we do require copyright release state-
ments.
We will also gladly publish announcements of special events,
new book releases, job opportunities and anything else which may
be of interest to our discipline. Of course all submissions are
evaluated by blind readers on whose findings acceptance or rejec-
tion is based.
All submissions must be typed, double-spaced and carefully
proofread. Submit two copies of e ~ h manuscript and attach a
stamped, self-addressed envelope. The MLA style should be fol-
lowed. Transliterations should follow the Library of Congress sys-
tem. Submissions will be evaluated, and authors will be notified
after approximately four weeks.
All submissions, inquiries and subscription requests should be
directed to:
Prof. Leo Hecht, Editor
Dept. of Foreign Languages & Literatures
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA 22030
4
Announcements
The .new academic year has staned. This means that the sub-
scribers' contribution to the mailing and handling charges is again
due. The readers are again reminded that this is not a subscrip-
tion charge, since cost . of word-processing and printing
greatly exceed the amount requested. The S3.SO requested are
for the entire academic year 1986187 and cover three issues.
Please do send your contribution In as soon as possible. We are in
the process of reviewing the mailing lists. In case you do not send
your contribution by 30 days after receipt of this issue, we shall
assume that you are no longer interested in receiving SEEDTF,
and your name wiU be deleted from the from the list. Also, in this
connection, should your mailing label contain errors. please let
me know as soon as possible.
Important: Again, I would like to offer any capable individ-
ual with institutional backing the editorship of SEEDTF. Please
do let me know whether any of you are interested in bringing
SEEDTF to your campus. I shall be happy to inform you what
this process would entail. Remember that this is the only publica-
tion of its kind in the United States and would be a feather in the
cap of any university.
In answer to many Translations of the plays of Rad-
zinskii, Petrushevskaia and others may be obtained from Theatre
Research Associates, 11 11 Arlington Boulevard #733, Arlington,
VA 22209. Send for the catalog.
t I
s
Bibliography
The following items of interest were found in various bookstores
during your editor's recent stay in Moscow:
B. Bialik. M. Gorkii-dramaturg. Moscow: Sovetskii pisatel',
1971. A ma,ssive tome (639 pp.) which is heavily illustrated and
discusses all of Gorkii's plays.
N. I. Savushkina. Russlr.ii narodnyi teatr. Moscow: Nauka,
1976. A good short survey of history of Russian folk theatre,
illustrated, with a helpful bibliography.'
Vladimir Pimenov. Narodnye artisty. Moscow: lskusstvo,
1986. An interesting discussion of and actors including
Akimov, Astangov, Bersenev, Viven, Derzhavin, Zavadskii ,
Zubov, Zueva, Livanov, Mikhoels, Mordvinov, Orochko,
Okhlopkov, Tairov, Tolchanov, Ulianov, Khorava, Khokhlov,
Tsarev, Cherkasov and lura.
N. Tarkhova (ed.) Ot Ndrasova do Chelr.hova. Moscow: Jz-
datelstvo .. Pravda,.. 1984. A collection of often unobtainable
plays and commentary including Nekrasov's Ounnaia slr.ulr.a;
Turgenev's Vecher v Sorrente; Prutkov's Opromechivyi Turlca, iii .
Priiatno li byt vnulr.om?; Ostrovskii's Na vsialr.ogo mudretsa
dovolno prostoty and Nevolnitsy; and Chekhov's Bezot-
tsovshchina, Ivanov, and Leshii.
A. A. Ninov. Dostoevslr.ii i teatr. Leningrad: .. lskusstvo,"
1983. An excellent, voluminous collection of articles by leading
Soviet Dostoevskii scholars. Also contains a chronology of per-
formances based on Dostoevskii's prose writings.
F. N. Mikhalskii (ed.) Moskovslr.ii lr.hudozhestvennyi teatr v
sovetslr.uiu epokhu. Moscow: lskusstovo, 1974. Voluminous col-
lection of anicles on MXAT during the Soviet era. Well illus-
trated. Contains a lengthy listing of all performances at MXAT
from November 1917 to January 1974.
Ju. S. Kalashnikov. Stanislavslr.ii-reformator opernogo is-
kysstva. Moscow: Muzyka, 1985. An excellent study of Stanis-
lavskii's involvement with opera t>ased on a variety of materials
and documents. Index of names.
N. N. Soloveva and V. V. Shitova (eds.) . K. S. Stanisla,slr.ii.
Moscow: lskusstvo, 1985. A large format, beautifully illustrated
history of Stanislavskii's life and work as an actor and director.
Highly recommended.
6
S. Drobashenko et. at. (eds.). Ieino 70- e gody.
Moscow, lskusstvo, 1984. A voluminously illustrated discussion
of Soviet rilm of the 1970s with an index of films.
Iu. Tiurin and G. Dolmatovskaia (eds.). Elcran 82- 83. Mos-
cow: lskusstvo, 1985. A profusely illustrated discussion of the
films and film-makers of
L.P. Klimova. Stanislavslii v russkoi i sovetslcoi lcritilce.
Leningrad: Iskusstvo, 1986.
Items in English:
Simon Karlinsky' s Russian Drama from Its Beginnings to the
Age of Pushlcin which is reviewed in this issue has, fortunately for
all of us, just been released by its publisher in paperback. The
price is $10.95.
Halina Filipowicz. The Theatre of Tadeusz Rozewicz. Univer-
sity of Kansas, 1979.
Laurence Senelick. "Chekhov in Berlin: Four Productions,"
in Forum Modernes Theater, Vol. 1/1. Tuebingen: Gunter Narr,
1986.
Konstantin Rudnitsky. 11eyerhold the Director. Ann Arbor:
Ardis, 1981.
Michael Green (ed.) ThtRussian Symbolist Theatre: An An-
thology of Plays and Critical Texts. Ann Arbor: Ardis, 1986.
Peter Egri. Chek.hov and O'Neill: The Uses of the Short Story
in Chelchov's and O'Neill's Plays. Budapest: Akademiai Kiado,
1986. This book will be reviewed in the Winter issue of the Slavic
and East-European Journal.
Call for Papers
SEMIOTEXT(E) Columbia University
invites scholars in Russial)-related fields (literature, ,history, soci-
ology, art, architecture, tilm, communications, etc.) and artists
whose work deals thematically with the U.S .. S.R. (photography,
painting, cartoons, poetry, songs, etc.) to contribute to a special
issue of Semiotext(e) on the Soviet Union, entitled: ..
.. STRUCTURES OF EVERYDAY LIFE IN THE
SOVIET UNION"
Final submission date: 31 December 1986
7
All communications should be addressed to:
Nancy P. Condee and Vladimir Padunov, Co-Editors
21 Lauriston Street
Pro\idence, Rhode Island 02906
For further information call 401-861-5857.
The issue will include critical and artistic commentary on contem-
porary Soviet life by, American and Soviet scholars and artists.
Publication date: summer 1987

spectives in Literature and Language"
This symposium will take place at George Mason University
on November 6 and 7, t 987. Proj>osals for panels and papers
should be directed to Prof. Jeffrey T. Chamberlain, Department
of Foreign Languages and Literatures, George Mason University,
Fairfax, VA 22030. George Mason University is located in the
greater Washington, DC area.
Films and Cassettes
IF EX informs us that only two ,of their films are in anamor-
phic (cinemascope) process (TO REMEMBER OR TO FORGET
and WAITING FOR LOVE). All their other films are available in
flat (regular) versions requiring no special projection equipment.
The following may also be of interest to you considering frequent
inquiries which I have received from the readers:
Contemporary Russian feature films on videocassette available
by mail order only. VHS and BETA Formats. Original Russian
Versions, English subtitles.
$79. 95 each
AUTUMN MARATHON
JAZZMAN
MIRROR
PRIVATE LIFE
QUE VIVA MEXICO
RED POMEGRANATE
SLAP IN THE FACE
SUCCESS
TIME OF DESIRE
WARTIME ROMANCE
WITHOUT WITNESS
VASSA
8
$149.95
KINDERGARTEN (2 Pans)
OBLOMOV (2 Pans)
SIBERIADE (2 Pans)
Orders should be sent directly to:
lFEX Films
Video Department
201 West 52nd Street
New York, NY 10019
Telephone: (212) 582-4318
There is a $5.00 per title shipping charge. Allow 3 weeks for
delivery. American Express, Visa and Mastercard accepted
Sturua's of Richard Ill
In Moscow it was seen as farce, in
Thilisi as drama, and in London as irony.
1
Georgian director Robert Sturua wryly summarizes world re-
ception or his own 1979-80 production of Shakespeare's Richard
III. Reviewers almost uniformly praised his untraditional mixture
or tragedy, comedy, and farce; of music, dance, and Brechtian
acting methods; or expressionistic stage design and multiperiod
costume. Even Sturua's decision to freely cut, expand, rearrange
Shakespeare to suit his needs met little hostility. Using Z.
Kiknadze's prose translation into modern Georgian, Gia
Kancheli's contemporary musical score, and Miriam Scvelidze's
stage design, the Rustaveli Drama Company mounted a version or
Richard Ill English speaking audiences rarely see.2
Bakhtin's notion or carr,ival misrule- both its forms and so-
cial functions - helps explain the production's structural ironies
and deliberate self contradictions.3 Sturua subjects hero and play
to carnival's central "dufll'stic" image: "The mock,crowning and
subsequent decrowning o the ca'mival king." (Rabelais S) He
expresses the play's enactment(s) or the assumption or power
through carnival display of its loss. He both widens and eliminates
the distance between ruler and victim; places hierarchical stability
in precarious, threateninc contact with social chaos; and flaunts
numerous camivalesque reversals, blasphemies, parodies.
Many Western reviewers equated the flamboyance of
Sturua's production with stereotypical Georgian exuberance and
creativity. Ned Chaillet, after interviewing Sturua in London,
credits the popularity of theatre in Georgia to its "sense of carni-
9
val and high theatricality." (11) M. Khachaturova, writing in So
viet Life for an American audience, tries to analyze Sturua'a
artistic style: "With Sturua comedy often turns into tragedy and
tense drama explodes into farce." (15)
Irving Wardle's review of the London engagement at the
Roundhouse reflects the general British response:
Sturua's amazing transformation of Richard Ill into ex-
pressionistic farce was underscored almost throughout by
Gia Kancheli's sardonic music - mock innocent, sensu-
ous, and .rhythmically barbaric. h ~ performance is a
masterpiece of dramatized choreography which lends ab
solute conviction to the restructuring 9f the play. (11)
Defending his many alterations and transformations of the origi-
nal, Sturua believes theatre doesn't serve the author, but soci-
ety. Our productions will step over the corpses of the
philologists. "
4
In many of his productions he seeks a comedic
Brechtian theatre because "comedy alone allows the finding of
solutions," and therefore the director of classical tragedy must
"shift to another genre - tragifarce, the grotesque" to convey uni-
versal problems. The director must WC?rk against tragedy in order
to achieve it. In addition, he believes modern audiences want to
receive from the theatre "not only ideas and emotions but a feel-
ing of celebration." (Sturua) For these reasons he uses history (as
he claims Shakespeare did) only as a theatrical device to serve
artistic ends.
Yet Sturua's artistic ends have not been explored by many
non-Soviet writers, probably because his actors perform in their
native Georgian a highly altered variation of the original play. u
his Life and Death of Richard Ill resembles more an exploitation
of Shakespeare for artistic reasons than a vandalization for crass
sensationalism, his rethinking of the play warrants continued dis-
cussion. Although he willingly discarded the verbal poetry, he
tried to replace it with purely theatrical equivalents and cultivate
the possibilities of modern synthetic theatre. He orchestrates,
choreographs, designs a Richard which makes the absent text
theatrically present.S "Music, movement. voice, and space are
used in such a way as to give suggestions of a total artistic experi-
ence." (Dantanus 162)
Relying on stage forms for audience address, he restructures
the play's conflicts, character relationships, scene .sequences,
even climaxes in such a manner that narrative statement (the de
10
veloping story), musical punctuation, and visual picture (set and
blocking) fuhction almost discordantly. Sturua's own comment
helps our understanding of Richard: "Mikhail Bakhtin has played
an enormous role in my self perception as a director ... I always
try to combine the uncombinable, the high and the low, to mix
everything simultaneously." (Sturua)
Without locating the play within any single space or time
Sturua set loose a mobster quadrille" (H ignett 314) led by
Richard, who willingly employ any means necessary to seek
power. Kiasashvili thought Sturua displayed tyranny "as an ele-
mental human vice" (438); Berkowitz saw a "textbook demon-
stration of the inevitability of corruption in the given political
system with Richard the inevitable product." (163) Sturua's gro-
tesque world of tyrants and subtyrants constantly renecting each
other seemed a sardonic attack on "all politicians down to the
future Henry VII .. . Crookback 's treacherous chum." (Nightin-
gale 180)
Sturua finds the relationship (not developed in Shakespeare)
between Richard and Richmond fascinating. He also explores
the play's many ceremonial ~ v e n t s royal characters, and symbols
of authority through carnival reversal and degradation. Bakhtin
claims medieval plebeian society could build a second life outside
of the official one through carnival laughter:
Civil and social ceremonies and rituals took on a comic
aspect as clowns and fools. . .mimicked serious rituals
such as the tribute rendered to the victors at tourna
ments, the transfer of feudal rights, or the initiation of a
knight. (Rabelais 5)
Even literature coupled serious myths with "comic and abusive
ones," heroes with "parodies and doublets." (Rabelais 6)
Most interesting in tti'JilS of Sturua's modified Brechtian style
is Bakhtin's belief that carnival does not properly belong to the
sphere of art or theatre: the nucleus of car:nival "belongs to the
borderline between an and lire" and therefore "does not ac
knowledge any distinction between actors and .spectators."
(Rabelais 8) True carnival procession eliminates the footlights,
joins spectators and players in mutual festivity. Although Sturua
abandoned his original plan to have the actors arrive as a troupe
of strolling players, he retains the essential open-endedness of
carnival spirit. He accepts Bakhtin's analysis of carnival law (its
own freedom from law) and its hostile attitude toward "all that
11
was immonalized and completed. " 10) His Richard
creates a picture of dynamic social relativity more than one of
unassailable political tyranny.7
The Life and of Richard Ill progressed in three move-
ments which restate with variations a central theme. The action
peaks at the death of Edward, the coronation of Richard, and the
triumph of Richmond. The production opens with Queen Mar-
direct audience address. Carrying the absent Shakespear-
ean text - her promPt book for the evening - she symbolically
crosses the footlights, makes cear that this is theatre. We might
think she will be a detached narrator: \,ut she is both the first
player to arrive and the detached stage manager. Dressed all in
black, face painted a ghostly white, she invites the audience to
watch the present enactment of her: theme:
0, that your young nobility could judge What ' twere to
lose it and be miserable! They that stand high have many
blasts to shake them And if they fall, they dash them-
selves to pieces.
(1.3.256-9)
At her stage direction Queen Eiizabeth and the royal gran-
dees arrive in a wooden tumbril wheeled around stage to the
tempo of Kancheli's rock beat. Later. her stage managing involves
technical instructions to individual players or symbolic gestures of
narrative statement. She points Buckingham, for example, to the
mark where he should play his death scene, then opens her text
to the lines he must read, urging him to "Hurry up, it's nearly
ten." (Hankey 199) She signals Hastings' death by blindfolding
his eyes and passes her hand over the faces or other victims. So
often the .. instrument" of death, she seemed a "witchlike cho-
rus" (Kiasashvili 438), a raven-like figure giving the eerie feeling
of Fate as she predicted or directed the moment of a player's
exit.
Sturua deliberately altered and expanded Richmond's role
too, but in this case he intermingled the character so thoroughly
with Richard that it is almost impossible to discuss one without
reference to the other. As Richard, Ramaz Chjkvadze mesmer-
ized his audience on and off stage. Critical notices about his per-
formance reveal the complex creature Sturua sought. Hignett
describes a '"short Napoleonic bull of a man . .. his deformity- a
waik that lists slightly to the two-step that takes characters on and
orr stage." (314) He could change moods, voice, gait at each
change or the musical tempo. His costumes varied from an ur-
12
bane, mildly sinister cape, to Napoleonic grey raincoat, to
Wehrmacht black leather: .. Napoleonic hobgoblin" (Wardle 11),
.. early 19th century nobleman or charm and depravity gloating
over his easy seduction of Anne" (Berkowitz 163), and even a
petty carnival demon. David Lang saw the terrible and the ludi-
crous mingled: "Grotesque and satanic at once, he suggests simul-
taneously the cosmic clown and the disintegrating psychopath."
(116) In the wooing scene he could turn Anne's grief into farce,
play scornfully with her shawl. even mount her on stage without
rurning his cloak. His deformity was just a trick to deceive and
manipulate others. a cunning secret between Richard and his ap-
preciative audience - Richmond.
Sturua introduces Richmond in the first act of the play, and
keeps him on stage almost constantly. Chjkvadze could self con-
sciously show orr for his private spectator and "deliver his solilo-
quies as lectures to us and to his pupil." (Berkowitz 163) He
invites Richmond to connive with him, to mock the court, to join
him in all the abusive and shameless gestures of political self con-
fidence. Wearing Napoleonic or Nazi garb, parading before an
obsequious understudy. Richard became one link "in an endless
chain of moral freaks and murderers." (Sturua) He could in-
scribe a message in Richmond's character, but he could not pre-
dict how his "copy" would translate it. Sturua's extended irony
grows from this central relationship: the actor Richard rehearses
his understudy in the practices that will undo him. Among the
world of Richard's carnival doubles - "fat, thin, male, female,
clown, or gangster" (Hankey 69) - Richmond stands privileged.
Sturua also carnivalizes Edward by introducing him in a
crudely comic scene as the dying king in the last excruciating
hours of bodily decay. perhaps syphilitic madness as well.
Dressed in pajamas. grinning broadly, Auto Makhardze could
hardly remain upright as he manically crisscrossed the stage,
stumbling among his sJ.;jects. Although the whole realm knows
him to be impotent and his rule no one dares say so.
Yet the obvious bodily decline of the tyrant brings together carni-
val laughter and fear. perhaps the former releasing his subjects
from the latter. They may fear his tyranny but they mock his
decline. Servants wheel him around in a wooden dumpcart
though he were a helpless baby in diapers. (Gulchenko 45) Next
to this picture of weak old age, of the decaying body, Richard
looks like the radiant figures of renewal. But Sturua 's relentless
13
irony points to their similarities not their difrerences: "Richard
and Edward (were) for once truly brothers." (Hankey 69)
The old king's death (by choking on a white rose) leads
swiftly to a farcical free-for-all (Kowsar 533) in which all the
chaotically scramble for the crown, enter
into collusions, betray one another, or mock-philosophize on
conscience and guilt. Carnival disorder explodes and shifts with
the musical beats and pauses; each change in tempo signals a new
alliance, a new a new murder. Sturua exchanges the
weighty symbolism of crown al')d throne for the joke of pop cul-
ture. Richard 'and Buckingham kick ttierolling dumpcart throne
back and forth between them before Richard hypcritically gives it
to Elizabeth in mock deference. Sturua shifts audience attention
completely away from concern over which branch of the diseased
tree will flourish, to the spectacle of political chaos itself.
Miriam Scvelidze's fragmented, partially constructivist set put
several images in diagonal or parallel relation. It could evoke a
Bosch landscape of hellish characters, a circus tent for freak
shows, and the Last Judgment. A modified circus tent hovered
"above a gallows-like structure with a decrepit thatched roofing"
(Kowsar 533) "a ring of pure white Draped into a tattered crown
over black ravens and gallows." At times the set formed the
appropriate sign for Hastings' repeated question: "What are these
eagles tormenting themselves in a cage, when ravens are flying in
freedom?" (Urushadze 128) It also made visual Shakespeare's
"the world is grown so badffhat wrens make prey where eagles
dare not perch" (I. 3.69.70) and "Your aery buildeth in our
aery's nest." (I. 3.269) Here the rival brood could swarm, lurk,
prey endlessly. Here Richard could find his rickety throne.
The coronation scene is Sturua's masterpiece as it repeats
and intensifies the chaos following Edward's death. The influence
of Bakhtin is most pronounced here, for the staging of the scene
completely undermines the crowning it presents. Bach's "Ave
Maria" emphasizes the false majesty of this ceremony. The ac-
tion instantiates Bakhtin's claim that "crowning already contains
the idea of immanent decrowning ... (Problems 124) At this mo-
ment Sturua brings back the actor who played Edward but as a
new character-the Fool who begins his mockery of Richard, his
debunking of all tyrants, as Richard makes his way up the plat-
form in triumph. Meanwhile Buckingham places an open um-
brella on a rolling dentist or barber's chair and wheels carnival
crown and throne around stage in search of new clients. (Gul-
14
chenko 46) By the end of the scene everyone and everything
dances, roJis, walks to the beat; every subject carries an umbrella
as they acclaim Richard the new king. But their noisy shouts can-
not be heard against the loud thunderclaps of the musical storm.
Wearing his grey raincoat and holding his large umbrella, Richard
might think himself the .only one spared by nature, but the jester
(unseen by Richard) apes him. before everyone's eyes. "He who
is crowned is already the antipode of a real King, a slave, a
jester." (Problems 124) With vest, tapping stick, bicorne hat, the
Fool will "grin and tiptoe behind Richard," (Hignett 315) de-
grade his successes, predict his decrowning.
Sturua, I think, deliberately confuses the distinction between
Richard's ironfisted authority and carnival relativity. Only carni-
val law - unlimited shifts and metamorphoses which mock control
- prevails. As Richard sneers at his victims, one frame of the
stage reveals Margaret summoning Richmond to break with his
ally and gather an army against the usurper. Another fragment of
the montage shows several citizens parodying a tyrant' s refusal to
tolerate dissension as they comically kick and punch Brakenbury
into "correct thinking." And Buckingham - Richard's former
henchman - knows too much, cannot survive Richard's cunning
examination about the youftg princes, so falls victim first to the
purge. But the tap of the Fool's stick directs audience attention to
these inevitable scenes from the life of a tyrant solidifying his
power. Every action which strengthens his grip mocks his stability;
the Fool's winks and quizzical looks place everyone around
Richard at ironic distance.
And Sturua 's method - consistent inconsistency - governs
the rest of the action. He re.verses expectations, allows characters
(Richmond in particular) to develop in unforeseen ways, permits
one musical melody to invade and annihilate another, juxtaposes
promises of loyalty 'cts of betrayal. .of regret un-
dermine themselves through puppet like delivery. Characters can
literally cease to exist in one area of the stage when Richard
winks to a murderer in another. All of this unfolds like carnival
pageantry - noisily, crudely, sensuously, emphasizing physicality
and household items.
Later another tap of the ringmaster's stick abruptly halts gai-
ety and sends nightmare visions to Richard. Ceremonial church
music leads the ghosts of Richard's victims back and forth across
the stage ... Crossing and recrossing in every direction, never stop-
ping, never speaking" (Hankley 234) these tormentors deprive
1S
Richard of his strength and superiority. A terrified child alone in
his "tent," Richard falters, breaks his stride, actually loses his
arrogant posture. For the first time Richard appears physically
weak- like his predecessor- and falls at Margaret's feet as if to a
mother from whom he can gain strength and renewal. But the
white shadows against the black shade continue his agony, deny
him escape: Queen Margaret seems the embodiment of that con-
science tormenting him.
The tragic intens'ity or' this scene is sharply broken and con-
tradicted by t.he sudden start or the \>\ttle scene. Sturua trans-
forms Elizabeth's "I see as in a map, the end of all" (1. 5. 54) into
an outrageous pun. Rejecting realism totally, he stages the battle
in mock heroic proportions. The s t ~ s draping cloth- now reveal-
ing a huge map of England on its top side - is lowered onto the
shoulders of two mythic antagon ists. With their puppet heads
poking through two slits in the "rag of honour" the painted ty-
rants fight a bloodless carnival war. The cartoon encounter drains
any heroic grandeur from the match. Dwarfed enemies slash at
each other with two-and -half meter swords that never meet.
"England" sways and dips at every. ludicrous lunge. Simultane-
ously elevated to myth and debunked to comic book adventure,
the battle empties itself of significa.nce and of the capacity to
bring permanent stability to the realm. Richard awkwardly untan-
gles himself from the cloth, shows a deformed arm for the first
time, and chokes on a death rattle "My kingdom for a horse."
(V. 4.13)
With Richmond now atop the shaky scaffold, the finale be-
gins. He does not seize his prize greedily; in another unforeseen
surprise, Richmond pauses before taking Richard's crown, as if
aware of the " nest of vipers he's got in his hands." (Hignett 31 5)
In that pause Sturua combines many of the play's conventions
and themes. Is this the understudy's brief timeout before begin-
ning his role? Does he deliberately defer power to gain some po-
litical advantage? Does he momentarily feel a disaffection with
corruption? In that static and silent frame the audience may con-
sider what Sturua calls the unnoticed lyrical theme of Ricard///:
... suffering, anguish, regret for a wasted and empty life
(in which) we constantly destroy our best ideas . . . bla-
tantly waste the gifts given us, neglect our destiny, step
into the slough of evil more easily than into good as
though something mysterious were luring us toward evil."
(Sturua)
16
Just as we consider Richmond and his possible thoughts,
Sturua shifts attention from the new King to the Fool. Together
they form the last and most explicit image of carnival relativity
and ambiguity. Two quite different responses to this conclusion
will illustrate how open ended the production was. To Urushadze
the Fool discards his guise of Impartiality, looks directly at the
audience with despair and bewilderment in his eyes. His look
tries to warn us, "Today and for all eternity." (133) Gulchenko,
however, notices the choreographed twin movements of King and
Fool: first the jester removes his three cornered hat, then the
prince (as though copying him) puts on his crown in reverse ac-
tion. The Fool's gesture initiates a crowning and mimes its undo-
ing.
The visual ventriloquism of crowning and decrowning evokes
and defines carnival laughter, "directed at all and everyone, in-
cluding the carnival's participants. The entire world is seen in its
droll aspects, in its gay relativity. This laughter is ambivalent: it is
gay, triumphant and at the same time mocking, deriding. It as-
serts and denies, it buries and revives." (Rabtlais 12)
Such is the laughter of Sturua's Lift and Death of
Ill.
'
Notes
1. This and subsequent comments by Robert Sturua are from an
unpublished translation by Alma H. Law of L Vergasova's in-
terview with Sturua in 1983. For translations of other Russian
and Bulgarian articles, I thank Joel Janicki, Geoff Husic,
Judith Ellison and the University of Illinois Slavic and East
European Library. Alma H. Law generously provided me with
considerable informat;ion about Sturua's present work.
2. The production toured Edinburgh, London, Milan, Avignon,
Berlin, Geneva as well as several Soviet cities between
1979-1981. I saw it in' tbilisi anhe Rustaveli Drama Theatre.
Some of the British enthusiasm for this may reflect
politeness for Soviet visitors. Nightingale suspects "we might
piously disapprove of (Sturua's) manhandling of Shakespeare
if the Rustaveli Co. hied from Godalming Instead of Georgia."
In contrast, Dantanus turns his praise for Sturua's abstract
staging into an opportunity to criticize Royal Shakespeare Co.
work: where Sturua offers symbolic death gestures, the RSC
"would have given us screams, anguish, laments - pints of
blood." (161)
17
3. See Michael Bristol, Carnival and Theatre (New York:
Metheun) 1985, for an excellent treatment of camivalized
theatre in the Renaissance. I accept his conclusion that carni-
val serves a subversive social function, that the transgressions
of misrule express the accumulated resentment of society
against oppressive authority. The relationship between carni-
val and tvtarxist theory might also shed light on Sturua's work,
but that enormous topic lies beyond the small scope of this
paper.
4. Sturua's determination to the text does not always
lead to theatrical success. In trying t'oftransform As You Ulce It
into sombre political drama, he displeased audiences, critics,
even himself. William Hortman, "Shakespeare in West Ger-
many," Shakespeare Quarterly (1981): 382, dismissed the
production in Dusseldorf as a "studiedly unfunny, blase, irrev-
erent" rendition "spiked with political allusions and striving
for intellectual distinction."
5. See Galena Kozhukhova, "Ours is a World of High Beauty,"
Soviet Theatre 1 (1986) : 6-11, for a description of Sturua's
collaboration with Gia Kancheli an opera, Music for Liv-
ing, which premiered at the Paliashvili Opera and Ballet Thea-
tre, lbilisi, in 1984. Sturua's libretto depicts life after a
holocaust. The only survivors - an old man and a few children
- find a violin and begin to renew life and revive their spirits
through music. Drama, ballet, classical opera are all blended
in this production.
6. See Jan Kott, Shakespeare Our Contemporary (London:
Methuen), 1964 for one analysis of Richard III which radi-
cally differs from the tradition which sees the Wars of the
Roses as punishment for Bolingbroke's usurpation of the
crown and Henry VII as the emblem of rightminded devotion
to God and country. In discussion Kou mentions a Polish
Richard which treats Richmond's triumph cynically. While
talking of peace in his final speech, the new king "gives a
crowing sound like Richard's and, for a second, the same sort
of grimace twists his face." (47)
7. Although David Lang - a Georgia historian - warns against
making banal comparisons between Richard and Stalin, it is
tempting to relate Sturua's concept of the play to Georgian
social and political life. See Zev Katz, ed. Handbook of Major
Soviet Nationalities (New York: Macmillan) 1975; Gerald
Mars, "Cultural Bases of Soviet Georgia's Second Economy,"
18
Soviet Studies 3S (1983): S64-S9; Robert Parsons, "National
Integration in Soviet Oeorgia,.. Soviet Studies 34 (1982):
547-69, for discussions of Georgian resistance to the Soviet
official economic system. The use of theatre to make antigov-
ernment statements is, of course, a crucial topic in itself, but I
have not tried to explore it here. However, I do think a 19S7
Richard Ill in Thillsl probably reflected anti-Stalinist attitudes
prevalent during the Thaw. SeeN. Krymova, Teatr 9 (1957):
149-51, for a detailed review ofthe production. Alma H. Law
informally translated it for me during her seminar on Contem
porary Soviet Theatre at the University of Illinois, July 1986.
8. See Etero Gugushvili, "Common Sense or True Presentation of
Passions," Zarya Vostoka, 3 April 1979: 4, for a description of
the difficulties Sturua encountered while preparing Richard.
Chjkvadze's work at first did not please himself or Sturua, and
work on the production halted for a few months while the
director tried to rethink his entire concept. See Michael Con-
venay, "Festival in Guanajuato," Plays and Players July 1977:
37-9, for his enthusiastic praise of Chjkvadze's performance
in Caucasian Chalk Circle.
9. Sturua is currently working on a production of King Lear, a
play he feels grows out' of the same themes explored in
Richard Ill. At the time of this writing, the production has not
premiered.
Works Cited
Bakhtin, Mikhail. Problems of Dostoevsky's Poetics. Trans. Caryl
Emerson. Mineapolis: UP, 1984.
___ . Rabelais and His World. Trans. Helene Iswolsky.
Cambridge: MIT, 1968.
Berkowitz, Gerald. in Edinburgh." . Shakespeare
Quarterly 31 (1980): 163-4. .
Chaillet, Ned. "The Phenomenon of a Georgian Shakespeare."
Times 28 Jan. 1980: 11.
Dantanus, Ulf. "A Richard II made in the USSR." Moderna
Sprat. 74 (1980): 16o-62.
Gulchenko, Victor. The Lessons of Shakespeare." Teatur. 9
'(1980): 44-46.
Hankey, Julie. ed. Plays Ira Performance: Richard Ill. Totowa:
Barnes and Noble, 1981.
19
' l : \
'
.J
\
i
Hignett, Sean. "The Mobster Quadrille." New Statesman. 31
Aug. 1979: 314-S.
Khachaturova, Marina. Richard Ill Speaks Georgian." Soviet
Life. Nov. 1982: 14-16.
Kiasashvili, Nico. "A Georgian Richard III." Shakespeare Quar-
terly. 3.1 (1980): 438-39.
Kowsar, Mohammad. .. Richard Ill." Theatre Journal. 34
(1982) : 533-34.
Land, David. "Crookback fr()m the Caucasus." Times Literary
Supplement. 1 Feb. 1980:. 116. '
Nightingale. Benedict. "Theatre." New Statesman. 1 Feb. 1980:
179-80.
Shakespeare, William. Richard Ill. Ed. E.A.J. Honigmann. New
York: Penguin, 1968.
Sturua, Robert. "Interview by I. Vergasova." Sovremennaia
dramaturgiia. No. 4 (1983): 2so (unpublished translation
by Alma H. Law).
Urushadze. P. "Life and Death of. Richard Ill." Literaturnaia
Gra2iia. 9 (1979) : 125-34.
Wardle, Irving. "Richard Ill at the Roundhouse." Times. 29 Jan.
1980: J 1. .
Marie Tarsitano
Morehead State University
The Man rrom the U.S.S. R. and Other Plays. By Vladimir
Nabokov. Translation and Introduction by Dmitri Nabokov. New
York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1984, pp. 342. $9.9S.
That literary magician Vladimir Nabokov is up to his old
tricks in The Man from the U.S.S.R. and Other Plays, a collec-
tion of plays and essays on theatre and drama that are among the
lesser known fruits of his early emigre period of the 1920s-1940s.
In the essay "The Tragedy of Tragedy," Nabokov opines that
"the WTiter of genius may discover exactly the right harmony
of ... accidental occurrences, and ... this harmony, without suggest-
ing anything like the iron laws of tragic ratality, will express cer-
tain definite combinations that occur in life." This Nabokov has
done, for while his dramas are not on par with the sheer wizardry
of his narrative work, they do betray nashes of brilliance which
announce at least a sorcerer' s apprenticeship in wha( was for him
really an avocation.
20
In his companion essay playwriting." Nabokov characterizes
a play as an ideal conspiracy,'" in which the relationship between
stage and audience mirrors that shared by the self and the world,
negotiating a theatrical reality somewhere between the conscious
and the unconscious. the tragic and the burlesque, in which fate
and chance figure in roughly equal measure, and the transpar-
ency of all ideas and things is everywhere apparent. Nabokov's
plays reveal his mastery of the incomplete statement and the in-
terrupted act. All of them and many of their individual parts end
in a series of ellipses which punctuate the allusive nature and
structure of the overall works.
While the author adapts the Hegelian model of thesis-an-
tithesis-synthesis to what his son Dimitri in his illuminating intro-
duction to this volume describes as a distinctively Nabokovian
triad:c spiral. he resoundingly and repeatedly rejects the Marxist-
Leninist dogma which resulted. His plays are double portraits of
vividly real dreams and grotesquely unreal realities peopled with
characters who, like their creator, are emigres inhabiting rented
spaces in an existential no man's land. Armed with the creative
and recreative powers of art and memory, they struggle to keep
the ubiquitous doubleness of life in focus.
Like his countryman, fenow emigre and acquaintance Nikolai
Evreinov, whose influence is here apparent, Nabokov equated
life's uncertainty with its theatricality, its transformative and con-
ditional nature, and presented the world from the simultaneous
perspectives of the wings looking to the stage and the stage look-
ing toward the wings with the answer to the question of where the
great drama, .. the chief thing" resides held forever in abeyance.
The Man from the U.S .. S.R. (1925-6) is a somewhat harsh
and parodistic refraction of what Dimitri Nabokov identifies as his
father's unfulfilled fantasy of returning to pre-Bolshevik Russia.
I.t is likewise a meditation on life's u!lreality, using
as a metaphor the plight of Russicins orphaned by the Revolution
of 1917 and set adrift in Berlin. emigres are largely
self-pitying and deluded, sustained by the pipe dreams of nostal-
gic memory and of vain hope for a romantically conceived apoliti-
cal Russia. They are contrasted with the play's protagonist
Kuznetsoff, an above-ground Bolshevik and underground anti-
Bolshevik travelling at risk and committed to a program of action
in lift!. The play's title and a reference in its final line link him to
Napoleon and to G. B. Shaw's anti-romantic characterization of
21
this of romantic symbols in the one-act play Tht Man of
Destiny.
It is fitting that Nabokov should have admired the perversely
original idea-twisting of Shaw who turned similar tricks of an re-
versing myth reversing history in Caesar and Cleopatra, The Dtv-
il's Disciple and in quasi-historical variants such as Arms and the
Man. In "Playwriting," Nabokov excepts Shaw from his criticism
of playwrights who rely too heavily upon stage directions and in
his own plays illustrates how such narration can be used to ad-
vance theme rather than plot. In "U.S.S.R." he intro-
duces certain of his characters bringing
them physically from shadow to substance only to return them to
the gray world of partial comprehension. This drama, which has
emigration at its heart, is defined hi terms of the movement occa-
sioned and impeded by time and space. The alternatingly parallel
and intersecting vectors or an and politics provide the play with
its central dynamic, with unseen events impelling and often times
dwarfing what transpires onstage.
Nabokov's wordplay, especially with personal and place
names, while not nearly so complt!x as in his novels is neverthe-
less highly satisfying. Kuznetsoff's ,familiar name "Alyosha" sug-
gests the godly Karamazov in. Dostoevsky's great novel.
Nabokov's critical opinion of Dostoevsky notwithstanding, his in-
fluence is evoked throughout the plays. Nabokov's "Alyosha" is a
man whose goodness and heroism are hidden, who claims not to
have the time to put his soul to work. People speak of Hegel and
Engels Streets (only here you turn right to get to Hegel Street),
commemorating proto-revolutionaries who found a "home" in
Russia while Russians (even some who are left-handed) have
been displaced from their homeland and now reside in the phi-
losophers' native Germany. Estranged from the workers' paradise
on earth, they dream of a paradise (the Hotel Elysium) created
not by the Engels of this world but by the Angels of the next.
Special and linguistic statements of fragmentation and aliena-
tion capture the emigre condition. The exiles cast as "extras" in a
film about Russia being "shot" in Germany disappear in the gaps
between painted flats which impersonate the real world, while
their spiritual kinsmen disappear and are shot by the Bolsheviks
in the vast reaches of the .. real" Russia. The studio set is a jumble
of jigsaw puzzle pieces as is the film which is being shot out of
sequence, making the intelligent discussion of plot impossible.
The emigres' basement club, patterned after the pre-revolution-
22
ary Petersburg artists' haunt the "Stray Dog," is starred by ex-
barons and exmilitary officers turned waiters. It is patronized by
hatless and coatless men who first appear as only legs at the
above-ground windows, proceed to become silhouettes and fi-
nally descend .. out of the blue," through blue curtains and down
blue steps. Characters in the play frankly discuss their playwriting
while only Kuznetsoff seems to have a clear sense of his identity.
But even in his case, fixing upon a course of action and a role to
play are at best strategies akin to whistling in the dark to drown
out the laughter. "The world is full of ways," remarks one char-
acter and yet this statement does not presume either freedom or
security in this world.
The Event (1938), which Nabokov subtitles "A Dramatic
Comedy," offers reader and audience a Chekhovian pop gun
which discharges a Gogolian bouquet of surrealistically-hued wild
flowers. A nightmarishly farcical double-portrait homage to
Gogol ' s The Inspector General, it is a play in which nothing hap-
pens twice. Nabokov here employs an array of literary conven-
tions: the peculiar symmetry and signification, misplaced
sanguinity and irrational foreboding of the fairy tale and the de-
tective story; the sickhouse' doom and dread of the Maeter-
linckian and Strindbergian dread play; the spiralling
concordances between commemorative events (birthday parties
and funerals) signalling noneventfulness in Chekhov's The Three
Sisters; and quotations in the absurdist future tense a Ia lonesco,
Pinter and Stoppard.
The play nominally tells of a house of artists-the painter
Troshcheykin, his wife Lyubov or "Love" and her sister Vera or
"Faith." There is no "Hope.:" The girls' mother is the author of
the reflectively entitled collection of fairy tales 11/umined lAkes,
and various other characters are twinned. The house is haunted
by two spectres, and Lyuba's dead son, whom the
painter is seeking to recapture in a mysterious portrait of a boy
and five glowing balls, and by the imminent r.eappearance of Bar-
bashin, who until recently had been incarcerated for the at-
tempted murders of the painter and the painter's wife,. his former
lover. Although the nemesis figure Barba shin never arrives, his
double and antithesis, the detective Barboshin does.
TrQshcheykin, another of Nabokov' s Alyoshas," is "infan-
tile," "nervous" and capricious." The play's reality is "a renex of
his imagination," spun out by the shadow children of an and
memory. Early in the play Troshcheykin recounts his dream of
23
painting a walless room beyond which, in a black abyss, sits an
audience of familiar faces which watches as he performs his life.
Later, in the play's coup de theatre, he finds himself along with
his wife "alone on a narrow, lighted stage" while the secondary
characters are transformed into the Oat images on a painted
backdrop in a visual echo of Gogolian dumbshow. Beyond him
stretches a . "dark chasm full of eyes, eyes, eyes watching us,
awaiting our destruction." Barbashin, like the Inspector General
and Wonderland's Cheshire Cat, appears and disappears beneath
the lit orb of a phantom street. lamp, and the glowing balls from
the anist ' s painted canvas roll around fhe house seemingly with
wills of their own.
The lucky and perfect numbers .of three, five and seven pop
up periodically in ironic counterpoint to the unlucky and imper-
fect fates and relationships which people the play. A watch (time)
and mirror (space) are broken, dissolving the nominal Aristote-
lian unity of the play's structure, leaving the characters and us in
a state of uneasily inhabitable, performed reality.
The two one-act verse plays in ~ s collection reinterpret fa-
miliar Nabokovian themes in minor keys. The Pole ( 1923- 4), a
dramatic condensation of Arctic explore Roben Falcon Scott's
diaries, and The Grand-dad (1923), set in 1816 and evoking the
bloody aftermath of the French Revolution, are, like his other
plays, post-Napolenonic in their relationship to the great roman-
tic themes of the nineteenth century and the conception of life
which engendered them.
The noble Scott, a failed Columbus beaten to the Pole (sym-
bolizing life's extremity and perhaps the illusory nature of direc-
tion) by the Amundsen pany, has endured the suffering of
voyage without the recompense of discovery. The lucky Passerby
in The Grand-dad who was saved from the guillotine is also the
unlucky victim who unwittingly travels an appointed course back
to his executioner. Both protagonists become the storytellers of
and panicipants in the fables of their own lives.
Nabokovian man in this collection of plays endures a cycle of
repetition and "re-envisioning." He is both the killer of lies and
the victim of truths, the author of his own fate and the double
who is morbidly amused by the ignominious spectacle of his crea-
tor's posturing and incompleteness. Thanks to Dmitri Nabokov's
intelligently edited and rendered translations, we can enter with
guilty pleasure into this "ideal conspiracy" between an admitted
24
and masterful double-dealer and a medium which responded in
kind.
Spencer Golub
Univenity of Virginia
Russian Drama from Its Becinnincs to the Ace of Pushkln. By
Simon Karlinsky. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985.
xxi + 357 pp. $38.50 cloth.
From the unravelling of myth, legend, and true cultural his-
tory to the careful delineation of the evolution of genres, from the
resolution of questions of authorship and innuence to substantive
reappraisals of the work and careers of several major figures of
the period, in Professor Karlinsky's Russian Drama from Its Be-
ginnings to the Age of Pushlcin the . entire panorama of the dra-
matic literature of the 18th century is, for the first time,
methodically and with some verve, filtered through the prism of
genuine literary scholarship. Karlinsky has upon himself
the enormous task of setting the record straight on eighteenth
century dramatic literature which he dates from about 1730 when
Trediakovsky began his innovations in style and versification to
1830 when Pushkin's Boris Godunov was published. Responding
to his need for a decent academic text on the subject and to
comments from learned peers that, in effect, he was wasting his
time on that "musty and .. . dusty" stuff, Karlinsky in his Russian
Drama takes up the formidable challenge of presenting a schol-
arly examination of the body of extant dramatic work from this
period and its role in the creation of a national literature in Rus-
sia. He questions and through careful, deliberate analysis based
on extensive and painstaking research dispels and dismisses over
a century of distortion, myth, rumor, uncritical and biased schol-
arship and neglect as epitomized in Belinsky's essay of
1840 in which il furioso, in a manner echoed by Mayakovsky
almost three quarters of a century later, indiscriminately jettisons
the previous two centuries of Russian literature.
In this preeminently readable work, Karlinksy has introduced
a new and refreshing perspective on the writers of the 18th cen-
tury and the polemics they carried on in reaction to each other's
work as they laid the foundation for the Golden Age of Russian
literature. In general, those marble-like figures who have for so
long stood mute and somber in the pantheon of 18th century
literature are brought to life in his book. Luminaries such as
Sumarokov, Fonvizin, Lomonosov, Kniazhnin, Krylov, Kapnist,
25
Lukin, Ozerov, Shakhovsky, and Griboedov, to name but a few,
are established as living historical figures bitterly and humorously
interacting personally as well as through their works. With the
careful and deliberate plodding that has come to be expected of
him as a scholar, Professor Karlinsky sheds new light on the slow
twists and turns of the development and on the final texture of
the literary drama of the period.
Through his reevaluations of their work in the context of
their time and their contemporaries, Professor Karlinsky rescues
some of the 18th century writers from oblivion-writers such as
Ozerov, Lukin, Shakhovsky, Khmelnitsky, and others, who, as
he aptly demonstrates, are of considerable significance to the de-
velopment of Russian drama from Pushkin and Gogo! to Chekhov
and Mayakovsky. Although his personality may have suffered a
bit in the bargain, Alexander Sumarokov is the subject of one
such reevaluation. Karlinsky compares Sumarokov' s work with
that of his peers and, in that context, reviews the judgment
passed on his by his contemporaries as well as by Pushkin, Man-
del'shtam, and Goncharov. Manuevering comfortably and care-
fully only within the canons' established for a genre (tragedy) by
his French models, Sumarokov, we discover, was his own worst
enemy, vitiating and his fellow writers by his petty jeal-
ousy and intolerance for innovation. Lomonosov, to whom
Sumarokov was so yet who was the object of
Sumarokov's at,tacks, con(luded that "whatever is good in
Sumarokov's plays is copiecl from the French." Fonviz:in com-
pared him to the most absurd and pedantic writers he met in
Paris. And, finally, Ivan Barkov, according to Karlinsky .. that
secret prince of Russian century poetry," particularly
of pornographic poems, created parodies of Sumarokov's trage-
dies with all the roles played by personified sex organs. In conclu-
sion, however, sorting out the truth from fiction, Professor
Karlinsky clearly establishes Sumarokov's tragedies as the unde-
niable pivotal event in the history of Russian drama.
Karlinsky discusses only Pushkin and Griboedov in more de-
tail and at greater length than he does Vladislav Ozerov, whose
two major plays, Otdipus in Athtns (1804) and Polyzena (1809),
constitute, he concludes, "the culmination of the entire genre of
neoclassical tragedy in Russia." Long overdue in Western schol
arship on this period, Karlinsky's astute analysis of Ozerov's con-
tril;>ution leaves no doubt as to the extent and lasting significance
of his influence on the future of Russian drama. The opportunis
26

tic and eclectic Alexander Shakhovsky receives his just due as
well in Karlinsky's work. A victim of invidious character assassi-
nation and subsequent uncritical and biased scholarship, Shak-
hovsky, whose work, as Karlinsky proves, by no means merits the
obscurity to which it has been relegated, is returned to his rightful
place as the one who more than anyone else was responsible for
charting and directing the path Russian drama took in the first
quarter of the 19th century. After reevaluating traditional inter-
pretations of Shakhovsky's Tht Lipttslc Spa, Karlinsky states
without qualification that, ironically, it was Shakhovsky, the Ar-
chaist, who, in this work, launched the modern Russian literary
language. Contrary to a general belief, Pushkin, the superman of
Russian letters, could not have done it without him.
In Karlinsky's work, also for the first time, many in the liter-
ary and arts establishment of the period claim their rightful places
in Russian cultural history. We discover, for example, that Prin-
cess Ekaterina Dashkova, whose portrait we have all seen count-
less times either in the Tretyakov or in textbooks, was not only
the director of the Academy of Sciences d\;lring the reign of
Catherine the Great, but was also the president-founder of the
Russian Imperial Academy and played an important role in the
political and social imbroglio over Kniazhnin's Vadim of Nov-
gorod.
Regarding the distortions of the cultural history pf the 18th
and early 19th centuries, Karlinsky repeatedly takes his Soviet
colleagues to task for their slavish service to the voracious appe-
tite of the Soviet system "for continuous self-congratulation and
self-justification" and to its chauvinistic nationalism that forces
cultural historians to "search for precursors of Bolshevism in all
past ages" and to demonstrate that good Russians are and always
have been immune from foreign influences. Yet Professor Kar-
linsky with deep gratitude acknowledges the contributions made
by excellent Soviet scholars to the corpus of sound scholarly re-
search on this particular period of Russian drama. The work of
these colleagues-indeed impressive- proves indispensible to his
own work and is posited by Karlinsky as a tribute to the finest
scholarly traditions that have weathered the harshest of times and
still remain very much alive in the Soviet Union today. In his
Russian Drama, Karlinsky has assembled what may prove to be
the' defanitive annotated collection of Soviet as well as of pre-
revolutionary sources on this period. Unfortunately, for some
27
I
~
i
I "
!.
I
reason, he omits a standard bibliography of his sources from the
book.
No one demonstrating the slightest bias against the drama of
the 18th century escapes the cold steel of Karlinsky's scholarship.
He chides Nabokov for his typically 19th century hostility and
contempt for the neoclassical heathen", takes on the Soviet
scholars who manufacture an expedient cultural history of the
period and chastises knowledgeable Western commentators who
uncritically accept it. He chases down myths and legends sur-
rounding major figures, and sleuths out and resolves questionable
authorship. For example, he debunks as lacking any historical or
biographical basis Fonvizin's reputation as any enemy of serfdom
and demonstrates why, with the possible exception of Dead
Souls, Fonvizin's The Minor is the singlemost widely misunder-
stood masterpiece of Russian literature. He also dispels the false
rumors of censorship surrounding the production history of this
play as well as that of other plays during Catherine's time. One of
the chief misconceptions that Karlinsky deals with is that Russian
culture before Pushkin is largely derivative. Karlinsky does not
question that Racine and Moliere, Corneille, Favart and Matas-
tasio were clearly models for the nascent drania of Russia. How-
ever, he clearly demonstrates that the truth lies somewhere
between the manufactured Soviet view of Russia's immunity. from
foreign influence and the uninformed view of servile imitation.
Another particular strength of the book is Karlinsky's stead-
fast pursuit of the connections between the masters of the last
three quarters of 19th century Russian literature and their precur-
sors. For example, in his discussion of Khmelnitsky's The Chat-
terbox, he briefly traces from it the geneology of characters in
Gogol's The Inspector General and in Griboedov's The Misfor-
tune of Being Clever, and draws parallels between Khmelnitsky's
style and tone in his play and Pushkin's style and tone in Eugene
One gin. Making distinct connections between the vaudeville play-
wrights Khmelnitsky .and Shakhovsky and their successors
Griboedov, Gogol', Turgenev, Tolstoy, Chekhov and
Mayakovsky, he also establishes the eenre of vaudeville as the
bridee between Russian neoclassical and realist drama.
Though his rather plentiful and lengthy plot summaries at
times grow tedious, Professor Karlinsky's work represents a m j o ~
achievement in the scholarship on 18th century dramatic litera-
ture. And based on the merits of its eroundbreaking contributions
to the study of the neoclassical period, I predict that it will be-
28
come a standard reference work on it. No Slavic collection
should be without KarUnsky's work, As il text for graduate stu-
dents, it should serve to stir a new interest in the period and
attract younger scholars to a field that, as Karlinsky demon-
strates, is undeserving of the general neglect and uncritical treat-
ment it has so long endured.
Joseph C. Troncale
University of Richmond
The King of Time. Selected Writings of the Russian Futurian. By
Velimir Khlebnikov. Translated by Paul Schmidt. Edited by
Charlotte Douglas. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press,
1985; pp. 255, $18.50 cloth.
Velimir (Viktor Vladimirovich) Khlebnikov was the wood
sprite of modem Russian poetry and among the most versatile
and original conceptual artists of Russian culture's Silver Age. A
master of material, historical and theoretical event, he invoked
natural and cosmic mysteries a Ia Walt Whitman and W. B.
Yeats, respectively, with an incantatory, vibratory power which
expressed the magical possibilities of language. For Khlebnikov,
the very structure of the universe could alter with the shift of a
sound.
Khlebnikov was a constant inspiration to himself. A self-de-
scribed "inventor/explorer" (as opposed to "investor/exploiter"),
Viking and Asian, child and seer, felt himself to be both sepa-
rate from and at one with humankind, a race fallen from the sky
with the curse of mortality on its head and the caged bird's dream
of freedom from blind fate in its soul. All earthlings were for him
"Presidents of Planet Earth, both its citizenry and its power
elite, a cosmic restatement of the internationalist politics of his
day. This was also the response of the powerless to the factional-
ism and chauvinism which had precipitated internecine (the Rus-
sian Civil War), international (the Russo-Japanese War) and
global (World War I) hostilities and accompanying famine and
privation during Khlebnikov's brief (thirty-six year) lifetime. As
the editors of Tht King of Timt, a collection of his poems, fic-
tions (plays and future projects), manifestoes and a supersaga,
pqint out, in Khlebnikov's work "the conventional impulse to po-
etry-the attempt to identify the self through poetic expression-
gave way early to an attempt to identify the universe through
poetry. "His goal was to the World through the
Word, "to make Planet Earth fit for the Future." "What better
29
I
I
:'
answer is there to the danger of being born a man," he wrote,
"than to carry off time?"
In 1980 the Dia Art Foundation took the extraordinary step
of commissioning veteran translator-adaptor Paul Schmidt and
art historian Charlotte Douglas to translate and edit, respectively,
Khlebnikov's complete works. Khlebnikov's oeuvrt is extremely
multifaceted in form and tone, ranging from the concrete to the
mercurial, the lyrical and folkloric to the mathematical and
"beyondsensical," and thus demands of the translator a multi-
voiced approach. In addition, Khlebnikov's work in its entirety
and in its essence concerns the process, power and spirit of trans-
lation itself.
In Khlebnikov, the metaphysical is expressed physically, the
spatial numerologically, the aural imagistically, the linguistic
mathematically. His poetry abounds in puns and neologisms, in
hybrid translations and transformations which capture in micro-
cosm one of Khlebnikov's central intuitions concerning the laws
of the universe. This is that the world of the Unexpected lurks
beneath the familiar and that there are hidden correspondences
more profound than even Baudelaire and the symbolists imagined
between the natural world and abstract phenomena. To success-
fully translate Khlebnikov, one must strive, as did the author, "to
get what the writing means," which is nothing short of identifying
"the voice of Time itself, sounding in language. " Khlebnikov's
challenge hurled at the sky-"Genghiskhan mef.. . Zarathuse
mei...Mozarticulate mel"-is equally targetted at his audience,
which in his supersaga Zangezi is shown to be uncomprehending
and inhospitable to the poet-prophet's vision, and at his would-
be translators, who must bravely venture where none have gone
before.
Schmidt as translator and Doublas as editor have happily met
this challenge and given us a Khlebnikov filled with wonder,
audacity, playfulness, hubris and humility. They have also clari-
fied Khlebnikov's work, much of which was accreted, rewritten
and undated, by dividing it into thematic as well as chronological
units. These are linked by biographical, contextual briefs, which
help track the artist's development and concerns more success-
fully than would an introduction alone.
A particularly useful feature of this book is the short chronol-
ogy of historical, cultural and biographical events which follows
the text. Here external correspondences prove illuminating and
evoke further thought. While "the time machine's" inventor H.
30
G. Wells was being received by Lenin in Russia (1920), Khleb
nikov was inventing .. the Laws of Time" in Baku. While Khleb
nikov was reimagining the universe as "supersaga," James Joyce
was creating his modernist cosmos, Ulysses (1922), along simi
larly quasi-classical lines. These and other experiments in tempo
raJ and spatial poetics were, in large part, precipitated by the
publication of Einstein's Special Theory of Relativity (1905) and
by the disruption and dislocation precipitated by war and Revolu-
tion. The latter resulted in the Soviet Union's adoption of the
western calendar ( 1918) and later in its reinvention of the past.
Khlebnikov proclaimed the autonomy of language and linguistic
units ( .. The Word as Such," "The Letter as Such," 1913) at a
time when Nikolai Evreinov (The Theatre as Such, 1912) and
other theatricalists were doing the same for the languages of the
~ ~ .
Like a fellow painter-poet, Stanislaw Wyspianski, Khleb-
nikov envisaged a mathematically determined universe as Pure
Form. His two-character dramatic sketch, Mrs . Lanten (1919),
echoes Evreinov's call for subjective co-experiencing between ac-
tor and spectator in the theatre (An Introduction to Monodrama,
1909), much as his discussion of .. The Radio of the Future"
(1921), that is, television, shares its vision with Evreinov's play
Radio-Kiss (1925) . Khlebnikov's scientific aestheticism was
shared by many Russian Silver Age artists, as well as by their
West European counterparts. Proto-absurdist Alfred Jarry's sci
ence of pataphysics posited a system of reasonable nonsense not
unlike the Futurian imaginings of Khlebnikov, who was a
trained mathematician. Khlebnikov's vitalist view of Nature was
synchronic with the symbolist revival (Aleksei Remizov, et al.) of
Russia's folkloric heritage.
As interesting and important as the correspondences which
can be drawn between what the .. Futurian" Khlebnikov accom-
plished and foresaw is what the artists and thinkers of his future
and our present have attempted and envisioned. His Wagnerian
supersaga" Zangezl, which transpires in twenty blocks or
"planes, is a wondrous poetic hanging garden, a compendium of
linguistic styles which anticipates the work of Raymond Queneau.
Its architectural conception of durative time and epic space in the
theatre has been independently rediscovered in our time by
Robert Wilson. The cubofuturist opera Victory Over the Sun
(1913), for which Khlebnikov wrote the prologue, aside from an-
tedating the Satie-Picasso-Cocteau collaboration Parade (1917),
31
represents the sort of theatricalist experimentation to which well-
read, eclectic young theatre artists like Peter SeUars (who has a
penchant for futurism, constructivism and opera) are now return
ing. The philosophical-linguistic- mathematical bent of Khleb
nikov's theatrical vision anticipates that of Susan Sontag and
Richard Foreman, as well as the various structuralists and semi
oticians currently in vogue.
Khlebnikov's vision is to our future like the stream of light-
ning birds," radio and television, was to his own, a possible
means of communicating more essentially, effectively and univer-
saUy to a planet in desperate need of healing. The artist who pro-
claimed, "I am what is not .. am the only son of who I am," has
had his singular humanistic vision and voice ably conveyed here.
We of the future eagerly await further dispatches from the past, a
historical reality which can hardly constrain or define our "King
of Time. "

Spencer Golub
University of Virginia
Andrei Tarkovsky's most recent film is Nostalghia which was
released in 19 8 4. It is an Italian production which was filmed
primarily in the Rome area. Tarkovsky himself, well aware of the
controversies his . film would arouse, advised the audience to
took at it as if it were the window of a train travelling through
your life .... 'Nostalghia' (a Russian term) mixes the love of your
homeland and the melancholy that arises from being far away ....
It can be contracted only in a foreign country." It is, of course, a
fact that the artist is sometimes a flawed critic of his own work. In
this case Tarkovsky is no exception.
At first view, the film contains virtually aU the elements of
Tarkovsky's previous products'. It is filmed primarily in black and
white, with striking changes to color or tinted hues. There is very
little direct light and most of the scenes would have done proud
by Rembrandt's conception of shadows. As in all his films, water
plays an overpowering role. He uses it as a cleansing, expiating
force, but also as a murky, shadowy, soiling instrument. His fre
quent rainfall and the resulting ground fog creates a somber
mood and an impenetrable view of life's environment. As always,
Tarkovsky displays his filial loyalty by frequent references to the
poetrY: of Arsenii Tarkovsky, his highly talented father. The en-
32
tire film is dedicated to the memory of his mother. There is a
great deal of visual symbolism, frequently including water, and
minor symbols, such as a patch of white hair on the right side of
the main protagonist's head, similar to the one in the same loca-
tion on the head of the Stalter, possibly his finest film, although
devotees of his Rublev may claim otherwise. Does this signify the
realization of advancing age and closeness to death? Who can
tell. There is also quite a bit of sound symbolism-breaking glass,
drops of water, the sharp click of heels striking a marble floor
surface, but, of course, no music (with one short exception), or
other background sounds.
The most striking element of the film is the camera work. It is
breathtaking and fascinating. Although quite similar to
Tarkovsky's former films, it makes its characteristics much more
apparent in this film. The first frames of each new take sequence
is a profoundly beautiful cameo shot quite suitable for framing.
There are literally scores of these throughout the film. Another
characteristic would frighten the average Americ'an film director
to death. Because of the influence of television.in this country,
the average film take between cuts is eleven seconds. In this film
it is frequently several minutes long. The camera is static although
it does change its depth of field. The same scene remains on the
lens, sometimes closer, sometimes a little farther away, and the
actors perform for several minutes at a time, disregarding the dif-
ficulty of mouthing lines without error:. Of course, in this film, this
is not as difficult as in others, since the lines are relatively short
and far between, with a considerable amount of overvoicing.
Nevertheless, American filmmakers have eliminated such scenes
since they feel that without a radical change in scenery and some
.. action" going on all the time, the attention of the audience can-
not be retained for longer than about twenty seconds. This makes
this film particularly difficult for American audiences. They miss
too much, waiting for some form of physical action. Another
camera technique which is eminently obvious in this film is the
clearly balanced, classical composition of the shots. They look
like Italian Renaissance paintings. If there is a bed in the middle
of the room, it must be balanced by two light sources-a bath-
room on the right and a large window on the left. If there is a
s t o ~ bench in the foreground it must be framed by a large arch
in the background. It there is a suitcase next to it on the left,
there must be two paper bags on the right.
33
But now to the most difficult part of the analysis, the plot line
and the philosophical essence of the film. A present-day Soviet
poet is in Italy to conduct research on the life and work of a late
18th century Russian composer and expatriate whose works ex-
ude nostalgia for his homeland, who realizes that if he returned
there he would become "a slave, .. but who, In the end, does go
back to Russia. (Incidentally, some critics consider this to be an
autobiographical statement by Tarkovsky.) The poet, portrayed
by a brooding, melancholy Oleg Yankovsky, has a wife and two
children waiting for him in Moscow. He suffers from a symbolic
heart ailment. To facilitate his research and to take him to vari-
ous historical and religious sites in the greater Rome area, he has
been assigned a lushly carnal, young guide/interpreter played by
Domiziana Giordano. The third starring role is that of a madman,
portrayed by Erland Josephson-the pivotal figure of the film.
As the film opens, the poet has asked the guide to drive him
to a chapel which contains the Madonna of Childbirth. He stays
outside while she goes in. The church is full of women praying to
become pregnant. The final element of the ritual is the tearing
open of the belly of a symbolic female figure on a throne, in
order to release a nock of birds which had been imprisoned in-
side. The sacristan suggests to the guide that she, too, kneel to
the madonna. She wants to do it and even begins the motion, but
then declares that she cannot. She asks the sacristan why it is
women who form the backbone of religious observance in the
world. He answers that this may be due to the fact that they feel a
responsibility to the world since they are the ones who give lire to
its future generations. He then asks her whether she is happy,
and observes that "happiness is not the most important element
in life."
The relationship between the poet and the guide is a disturb
ing one. Quite obviously he is drawn to her and even remarks on
her physical beauty which gives him aesthetic pleasure. She, how
ever, is drawn to him carnally. He never makes sexual overture!
to her for reasons that are difficult to fathom. She considers him
an eccentric and enigmatic person to whom, as she claims, she
has only negative reactions, but states that if the occasion pre
sented itself she would rattier agree to have sex with him than gc
through the difficult process of explaining to him why she didn' t
care to.
The relationship between the poet and the madman is infi
nitely more complex. They seem to have a meeting of the mind:
34
and understand each other's thoughts and actions without verbal-
izing them. The madman had kept his family locked up in his
house for more than seven years before they escaped into the
outside world. He is a revolutionary in that he believes that all
contemporary values are nonsensical and only irrational values
are real.
At this point we must discuss the concept of Nostalghia. Of
course, there is some element of longing for the homeland-based
on the writings of the 18th century composer. But this is not the
true nostalgia which Tarkovsky is talking about in the script which
he co-authored. One may have nostalgia in his own home, in the
happiest or unhappiest of all settings. Nostalgia is a longing, a
desire, an ache for something other than what one has, for a
Nforeign land" within one's own mind. It is mystical, fantastic,
surrealistic and transcendental. One really does not know what
one is nostalgic for; one can only sense it in rare moments of
insight. This is not anything one can arrive at rationally. The
three main characters feel this quite strongly.
The guide, despite her protestations to thecontrary, is not
happy with her lot as mistress of an important influence-peddler
in Rome, her childlessness. her carnality. She is longing for some-
thing else which, she feels, is dangerous. This is why she deserts
the poet and refuses to have any additional contact with the mad-
man. One has the feeling that she will never have the indefinable
something that she wants.
The madman wanted to shut the world out. He dreamt of a
small house in a beautiful country setting where he, his wife, his
children and his dog could live away from the world. In his pre-
sent miserable, crumbling stone home he had even created a
mockup of the vaUey in which he envisioned his new world. In
the town in which he lived, the site of a hot- spring spa, his major
attempted achievement was to carry a lighted candle across the
width of the bath area without it becoming extinguished, a feat
which he did not succeed in accomplishing. We last see him in
Rome, atop a statue, assaulting the world and its values, chastiz-
ing it for failing to believe in snow in August, and finally self-im-
molating in the name of his mad fantasy. He burns to death to
the resounding of Beethoven's .. Ode to Joy," but rather than
hearing its final crescendo, the melody dissipates as if the record
player had run out of energy, accompanied by the agonized bel-
lows of the dying madman. He has failed.
3S

In the last scene of the film, the poet tries repeatedly to carry
a lighted candle across the bath area. He finally succeeds and
dies of a heart attack since he could not hope ever to achieve
anything of greater value. The fadeout shows the poet reclining at
the side of a pond with the madman's dog. In the background we
see the homestead of the madman's dreams which now has be-
come real. The entire scene is surrounded with the columns of an
immense, church-like edifice. Finally it starts snowing-in
August.
This film is strong stuff. It is easy to understand why it re-
ceived such mixed reactions all over the world. The reviewers
either loved it or hated it. In general, one may say that the visual
aspects were pure Tarkovsky at the highest stage of his achieve-
ment. The problem comes with the philosophy he is expounding.
Too frequently his ideas become excessively obscure and convo-
luted. The film requires intense concentration and one must see it
at least twice to obtain the desired effect. It is not pleasant Sun-
day afternoon enjoyment for the whole family, nor is it an action
packed quick-sequenced, witless Rambo. In addition, although
some of the dialogue is in R ~ s s i a n most of it is in Italian. The
overly large, overly bold-faced subtitles also detract from the vis-
ual imagery. In general, the film is a visual delight which is ex-
tremely demanding of the viewer and is highly recommended for
those who do not object to thought and other emotional strains
while watching !! film.
Leo Hecht
George Mason University
(The following article was composed from information contained
in VAAP brochures and is offered here without commentary.)
Mikhail Shatrov
The name of the Soviet playwright Mikhail Shatrov is well known
to theatre and film fans in many countries. His plays and their
screen versions have been shown in England and Greece, India
and China, Cuba and Finland, Lebanon and Japan, as well as in
all the countries of Eastern Europe.
Mikhail Shatrov's plays have been staged by the most re-
nowned Soviet theatres-the Moscow Art Theatre, the Sovremen-
nik Theatre, the Moscow Leninist Komsomol Theatre-and all of
36
them are associated with the names of outstanding producers:
Boris Lvov-Anokhin, Leonid Varpakhovsky, Oleg Yefremov and
Mark Zakharov. They have also attracted such talented actors as
Alexander Kalyagin, Tatyana Lavrova, Yevgeny Leonov, Irina
Miroshnichenko. Tatyana Peltzer, lya Savvina, Boris Smirnov,
Oleg Tabakov, Lydia Tolmachova and Oleg Yankovsky.
What is it that draws the audience to Shatrov's plays? First of
all their popularity can be explained by the innovations he
.brought to the Soviet theatre of the sixties. This was a time when,
quite independently of each other, Rolr Hochhuth and Peter
Weiss in Europe and Mikhail Shatrov in the USSR turned td the
documentary drama. This genre allowed Shatrov to develop new
means of expressing the historical significance of the Great Octo-
ber Socialist Revolution and to gain a deeper understanding of its
leader, Lenin.
It was during the sixties that the urgent need to turn back to
the history of the October Revolution and review the events that
took place arose. Artists were expected to keep to the facts for
the sake of historical accuracy, and this in its turn called for a
more profound perception of all the revolutionary events that
have some bearing on the present, so that they could serve as a
lesson for the present generation and not merely be a subject of
purely academic interest.
Mikhail Shatrov met this on the part of society
by writing a series of plays devoted to Lenin: '"The Sixth of July,"
"Bolsheviks," '"Blue Horses on Red Grass" and "We Are Bound
to Winl" The subjects chosen by the dramatist, the way he for-
mulates them and the artistic means he uses for conveying his
ideas are completely modern and have become recognized land-
marks in the history of the Soviet theatre.
These plays invariably give rise to heated arguments among
the spectators and controversy in the press. They tear off the veil
of glamour covering the history of the Revolution and shatter
mental inertia. Conflicting situations, violent ideological clashes
and a tense and explosive atmosphere are characteristic of each
work.
'"The Sixth of July" narrates the story of the assassination of
Mirbach, the German ambassador in Russia, examining the prob-
lems of peace and war, still vital to the world today, and the tragic
split in the ranks of the revolutionaries which led to the bitter
struggle between the Bolsheviks and their recent comrades-in-
arms, the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries, who had up to that mo-
37
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ment served as members of the first Soviet government-the
Council of People's Commissars. Lenin' s principal opponent is
Maria Spiridonova, leader of the Left wing of the Socialist-Revo-
lutionaries, whose sincere devotion to her ideals was, according to
Lenin, never questioned either by Lenin himself or by his com-
rades.
"Bolsheviks" is the story of the attempt upon Lenin's life.
This was the time of the reign of "White" terror in the country
and the convening of an extraordinary meeting of the Council of
People's Commissars to discuss the establishment of "Red" terror
against "White," and consider the problems of "violence and
revolution," "revolutionary law" and "Leninist norms of party
life," as well as problems of joint leadership, etc.
"Blue Horses on Red Grass" is devoted to the grim times of
the end of the Civil War, when the country lay in ruins and its
population was mostly illiterate. The time had come to set about
constructing the "kingdom of equality and fraternity" where citi-
zens were to become truly inspired and free people. Lenin wrote
that the Bolsheviks had never staked on illiteracy, for illiterates
are outside politics; illiteracy was not much in the way in the
struggle for power and the need to destroy the old political sys-
tem. Destruction, however, was done not for the sake of destruc-
tion but for the sake of creating something superior, which
illiterates are incapable of doing. So while illiteracy persists and
the people remain poverty-stricken the country will be unable to
move forward.
"We Are Bound to Winl" opens with Lenin's last visit to his
Kremlin office. It gives a retrospective view of a number of dra-
matic historical episodes: the signing of the Brest Peace Treaty,
the period of the New Economic Policy, the establishment of the
USSR, the story of Lenin's "Letter to the Congress," frequently
referred to as Lenin's political testament," where he gives his
evaluation of Stalin, Trotsky, Kamenev, Zinovyev, Bukharin and
Pyatakov, as well as his work on his last articles. Probably the
most fitting epigraph for this' play would be a quotation from the
address of the Central Committee of the Russian Communist
Party (Bolsheviks) to the people following Lenin's death: "Lenin
was always at his greatest in times of peril.
Each of the plays in the Lenin series is quite original, ead
attempts to destroy traditional cliches and each, in some aspects.
is experimental.
38
"Bolsheviks" is a play about Lenin without Lenin, just as
there is no Pushkin in the play about Pushkin once written by
Bulgakov. It was probably this same attempt to find a new way of
understanding Lenin that made Shatrov decide that Lenin' s role
in "Blue Horses on Red Grass" should be played without make-
up.
Instead of the hackneyed image or the omniscient sage with
his familiar characteristic "leader's" gestures, whose speech con
sists of quotations from his own works, Shatrov demonstrates the .
workings of a great mind grappling with complicated problems of
the times.
Shatrov is also innovative in representing Lenin's opponents:
he does not show him fighting cardboard pieces the victory over
which is little credit to the victor, -but shows him in dramatic
struggle with extremely intelligent, serious and, therefore, danger
ous enemies, including those inside the party.
All the four plays are marked by the dramatist's desire to be
true to the documentary material. It should be stressed, however,
that documents serve him only as a means for 'studying reality
through the eyes of an artist, which opens great possibilities both
for the producers and actors.
Such are the questions the playwright poses before the
present-day generation, before his spectators and also before the
heroes of those or his plays that are devoted to the present, for he
is seriously concerned about the interests of the young genera
lion, their ideals and the problems they face.
These plays are also centred on present-day conflicts and
reflect contradictions between aims and means, form and content
. and the problem or reconciling them.
"Przhevalsky Horse" is an account or a group or Moscow
students coming to Kazakhstan during their vacation to help build
a school. Hoping to find out more about themselves these young
maximaUsts decide to live in a commune and it is here that they
encounter the difficulties or real life for the first time.
Yet another play, "My Hopes," raises the question of what is
genuine and what is ostentatious in lire. We see a young man in
search of his uue self and witness his refusal to say things that
contradict his convictions.
In spite of the different genres of Shatrov's plays, which
range from traditional psychological drama through comedies
about students to documentary and publicistic drama, and the
39
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I
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fact that his heroes represent different generations divided by half
a century, they have one thing in common-they all aspire to be-
come better men ready to defend their ideals.
Theatres are always drawn to Shatrov's plays because of their
high intellectual content, acute issues and deep analyses, and this
also explains the interest of those spectators who go to the theatre
not merely in the search of entertainment.
The Sixth of July (1964)
An experiment in documentary drama
Roles: 1 female, 32 male
Sets: Lenin's office in the Kremlin; the office of the presidium of
the 5th All-Russia Congress of Soviets; the reception-room at the
German embassy; a hall in a rich mansion; a glade in a wood.
The key issue of the play is the revolt by the party of Left
Socialist-Revolutionaries on the sixth of July, 1918.
The fulfilment of the terms of the Brest Peace Treaty con-
cluded by the young Soviet republic with Germany was the sub-
ject of fiery debates at the Sth All-Russia Congress of Soviets. It
soon became evident that the majority of delegates intended to
follow Lenin, leaving Maria Spiridonova and her party in the mi-
nority.
As a result the Central Committee or the Left Socialist-Revo-
lutionaries passed a resolution on armed revolt with the purpose
of seizing power from the Bolshevik party. Acting on orders from
his party, the Left Socialist-Revolutionary Yakov Blyumkin, who
also headed a secret department of the All-Russia Extraordinary
Committee (the state security office known as Cheka), assassi-
nated the German ambassador Count Mirbach. This was in-
tended to provoke the Ge""ans into breaking the Brest Treaty
and advance their armies. This unexpected betrayal plunged the
Bolsheviks, led by Lenin, into an intense struggle. As Lenin was
to say later, he had not anticipated treachery, for betrayal is al-
ways unexpected.
Launching an offensive against the Soviets the rebels cap-
tured Dzerzhinsky whose deputy Alexandrovich, together with a
cavalry regiment of the Cheka, went over to the rebels. The situ-
ation was aggravated by the fact that Moscow was practically with-
out troops. Most of them were at the front while the rest were
dispersed in summer camps. The telephone station was captured
40
by armed detachments of the rebels, the telegraph was not oper-
ating, the light had failed and hostile troops were preparing to
assault the Kremlin.
Though splits in revolutionary ranks are always tragic, feigned
unity is no less frightening, for at any moment it can turn into
betrayal.
The desperate resolve of the .left SRs to gain victory at all
costs forced the Bolsheviks and their leader to take bold and
purposeful measures. At this time the fate of the Soviet republic
totally depended on Lenin's decisions.
With the rebellion forces much surpassing those of the Bol-
sheviks, the situation was desperate. The Bolsheviks were largely
dependent on the Latvian rifle division stationed near Moscow,
but would it come to their assistance? According to the terms of
the Brest Treaty, Latvia was occupied and the Latvian riflemen
bereft of their motherland. Would they have enough political
consciousness to stay loyal to the Revolution in these circum-
stances?
The rhythm of the play is so dynamic thatthe audience for-
gets that the outcome-the suppression of the revolt-is already
known: the audience becomes totally engrossed by the play and
the development of Lenin's ideas.
The conflict of opposites is expressed by the two main char-
acters of the play-Lenin, the defender of his people's vital inter-
ests, and Maria Spiridonova, a strong and powerful personality,
fanatically devoted to her, sadly, mistaken ideal.
The Bolsheviks (1967)
Roles: 7 female, 21 male
Sets: Moscow, the Kremlin, the conference-hall of the Council
of People's Commissars and the hall in Lenin's flat.
The action takes place on the night of August 30th, 1918. The
country is in the grip of hunger, dislocation and civil war. Among
the People's commissars that gather at the regular meeting of the
Council of People's Commissars we see the brilliant leader
Sverdlov, the genial and erudite Lunacharsky, the quick and im-
petuous Yenukidze, the always punctual and precise Stuchka,
and the outstanding womandiplomat Kollontay.
While the Commissars are waiting for Lenin, they exchange
views, argue, joke, and discuss the latest news. A frank, open
41
(
discussion begins. The Commissars talk about the refusal of the
Petrograd Soviet to send workers to the front, fearing of dispers-
ing the proletariat, they curse a certain Kogan, sent as People's
Commissar for Food Supply to Kursk, and speak about the innu-
ence exercised by Sukhanov of the New Ufe magazine on Maxim
Gorky. Serious talk about urgent problems alternates with old an-
ecdotes and citations from Buonarrotti. Everyone keeps amicably
chaffing Lunacharsky's tolerance of cubism and futurism and his
failures of "monumental propaganda". They merrily imitate the
absent Lenin and arrange to punish him for being so unusually
late. We see people deeply attached to each other by bonds of
friendship. Suddenly the news spreads that an attempt has been
made on Lenin's life. Dangerously wounded, he is brought to the
Kremlin, but the doctors are not sure whether he will live.
Thus begins the first meeting of the Council of People's Com-
missars to be held without Lenin. They discuss the assassination
of Uritsky, the mutiny in Livrli, the savage reprisals of the enemy
against Bolsheviks and the advance of the White Guards at the
front . The meeting raises the question of opposing the terrorism
of the White Guards and Socialist-Revolutionaries by "Red" ter-
ror. This forced, protective decision is caused by anxiety for
Lenin's life and by the sense of their responsibility for the coun-
try's safety. The delegates have to keep cool heads and not let
themselves be innuenced by the furious crowds demanding
vengeance and urging the shooting of anyone suspected of treach-
ery on the spot. Sverdlov warns against the possibility of the
"Red" terror. t u r n i ~ into revenge.
Blue Horses on Red Grass (1977)
(A Revolutionary Etude)
An experiment in publicistic drama
Roles: 7 female, 12 male
Sets: the office and kitchen of Lenin's Kremlin nat.
The playwright breaks the traditional requirement that Lenin's
pan be based upon a facial resemblance: in Shatrov's drama,
Lenin is represented as our contemporary, who sometimes speaks
about himself in the third person or in the future tense as if he
knows beforehand what the genuine Lenin will do or say. The
dramatist uses the same means for depicting other historical per-
sonalities, such as Krupskaya, Ulyanova, Klara Zetkin, Doctor
Obukh and People's Commissar for Food Supplies Tzuryupa.
42
The play is also populated by fictitious characters with whom
Lenin converses: the young secretary Natasha, the journalist Dol-
gov and an official of the Moscow Soviet Sapozhnikova.
One of the episodes is centred on an argument that occurs
during a debate among young people from Krasnaya Presnya on
the problems of sex in the transitional period from capitalism to
socialism; after the discussion the representative of the city health
department, Doctor Epstein, exclaims, "I wish I'd died as a
child I"
In another discussion on proletarian culture and what is to be
done about the old intelligentsia, some homebred teachers de-
clare that it should be sent to the devil.
The play is based on the events of one day in Lenin's life: the
day of the opening of the Third Congress of the YCL (October 2,
1920), where Lenin delivered his famous speech addressed to
young people. It was there that Lenin proclaimed education as
the main task of the times, encouraging his audience to master
the vast body of world culture, without which it is impossible to
achieve progress. Addressing his opponents on ihe stage and also
the audience, Lenin calls upon them to argue, reflect and take
decisions, for communism does not need yesmen, it is not a
dogma which you can learn by heart, as the young demagogue
Sapozhnikova is trying to do.
An unknown artist had dreamed of painting a picture about
the future which wanted to call "Blue Horses on Red Grass." This
picture is, as it were, the focal point of the play, and the atmos-
phere of the play is full of the dreams of the future tinging all the
conversations and arguments that compelled Lenin to deliver his
address at the Komsomol's congress.
We are Bound to Win! (1981)
A publicistic drama in two acts
Roles: S female, 18 male
Sets: Lenin's office in the Kremlin.
After a long interval caused by his illness Lenin comes to his
office for the last time for a folder with top secret documents.
Thbugh he is unable to take an active part in the struggle to which
he has dedicated his life, and though doctors do not allow him
even to speak, Lenin is the same impassioned fighter for the
revolution as before.
43
He looks around his office, goes up to the window. and sud-
denly the walls vanish and In his mind's eye he sees a Russia
seething in turmoil.
Lenin dictates his "'Letter to the Congress" in which he
evaluates the character of those members of the Central Commit-
tee. including Stalin, who may become his successors in the ca-
pacity of Chairman of the Council of People's Commissars. In the
course of dictation he recollects the main points of the history of
the revolution: the Brest Peace Treaty, the perfidy of Trotsky, the
counter-revolutionary revolt in Kronstadt, the discussion on trade
unions, the need to switch over to the New Economic Policy, the
country's nationalities policy, and the Genoa conference.
Every historical change, every decision taken by Lenin is so
important and prQfound that it appears to be the culmination of
the struggle. However, the importance of the decisions taken con-
stantly increases. Just as one thinks that the tension has reached
its extreme and that wrath or thought has reached its limits, the
following episode turns out to be even more powerful than the
one that went before.
The play poses a question of immense importance: Does the
present correspond to the dreams of the revolutionary genera-
tion. and how have Lenin's ideas been realized today?
Though Shatrov vividly portrays Lenin's opponents inside the
party, the play is actually a monodrama full of the passionate
concern felt by a powerful and courageous man for the fate of the
revolution.
This is why we hear the following words spoken by Lenin at
the end of the play: .. Nobody can compromise Communists un-
less they compromise themselves! Nobody can impede communist
victory unless communists themselves impede it. We have found
the right road! Do not turn off! We are bound to winl"
Przhevalsky Horse (1971)
A Comedy about students
Roles: S female. 13 male
Sets: the steppe, a construction site, the group's headquarters,
the students' canteen, the students' camp.
A group of students comes to Kazakhstan with the purpose of
building a school, houses and a pig-farm with the amusing name
of .. Rejoice, 0 Pigl"
44
The group's commissar Alyosha Nesterov is motivated by the
same noble aspirations that move many of the others in the
group. The group leader Andrei lkonnikov, however, has come
in pursuit of fame: he wants to take first place in the institute's
competition as well as win the Red Banner. Maxim Bubenkov
and Vadim Antimirov have yet another objective: they want to
earn money.
With cheers of thoughtless enthusiasm all these different
young people decide to Uve in a commune and astonish the outer
world with the purity and fairness of their relations with it.
Their own relationships tum out to be far from ideal. These
young men working and livina together fail with their commun.at...-----1
He They.._have little desire to work, Because the money is divided
amongst all equally whether they work or not. The distrust they
feel for each other separates them and the resulting antipathy
breaks up the group.
It is then decided to organize a separate group of girls: let
them solve their own problems as they are slower workers. But
the boys still come up against new problems and difficulties. The
unwillingness of both groups to help each other prevents them
from working efficiently.
There are also a number of older characters. For instance
Stepan Kotelkov from the state-farm is a fairly decent man. He
was one of the first people who came to Kazakhstan to develop its
virgin lands. Although he returned from the war with numerous
decorations, he retreated before everyday difficulties. The State-
farm director Alexander Sizykh, on the other hand, is a busi-
ness-like individual. He is always ready to co-operate with
anyone who can be of use of his farm. He is ready to resort to
every kind of ruse and deception for the sake of the farm's profit
and correctly senses an accomplice in lkonnikov, but he never
has time to think about moral issues or argue with the impractical
Alyosha.
Acute problems posed in the play are centred on the conOict
between the group's commissar and its leader. Andrei is a practi-
cal, energetic and ambitious young man. His indefatigable drive
always brings him success. His confidence easily turns into
selfconfidence and he is convinced that the main hope of the
present generation can be found only in people of his type. A
utilitarian who stakes on people's material needs and desires and
never gives a thought to ideals or spiritual values.
45
Alyosha, the commissar, is also a powerful personality but his
strength lies in l1is passionate sincerity and loyalty to his ideals.
Eventually the students achieve their end and build the
school. Their own strength becomes apparent to them only after
they have experienced a number of disappointments and misun-
derstandings and come to a true understanding of the basic prin-
ciples of communal life.
A Special Issue of "DIALOGUE-USA"
.. DIALOGUE-USA" is a publication of the US Government
with editorial offices at 301 4th Street, S.W., Washington, D.C.
20547. This is an excellent publication, in the Russian language,
which is to acquaint the Soviet reader with various facets of
American liCe. For our purposes, special attention should be paid
to Issue No. 32. 1986. The ~ n t i r 120 page issue is dedicated to
American theatre and it is fascinating even for the American
reader. During my recent stay in Moscow I obtained several cop-
ies from the US Embassy and distributed them to some of my
Soviet friends who are connected with the performing arts there.
It was an immediate hit with them and I could not satisfy their
desire for additional copies. A few words on the contents of this
issue. The bulk of the issue was taken up with "American Thea-
tre Today" with articles by Howard Stein, Frank Rich, Norman
Sims, John Mcree, Norman Mailer, Edward Wilson, and others.
There is also a section of full-page color illustrations of the work
of John Beatty. Ming Cho Lee, Marjory Kellogg, Karl Eigsty and
others. All in aU, this issue fs highly recommended to those who
would like to cQuple delightful reading with practicing their Rus-
sian language.
L.H.
The Next Issue
A number of significant plays are presently being performed
on the Moscow stage. A discussion of these plays and a number
of basic premises covering present theatre politics will be pre-
sented in the ~ x t issue. Included in the plays with which we will
concern oursel\'es are SpeaA: Outl, The Last Visitor, and No. 40
Sholom Aleilchm Strttt.
46
I am interested in continuing to receive SEEDTF during Aca-
demic Year 1986/87. In order to do so, I am sending you $3.50
as my contribution towards mailing and handling charges for this
entire year. (This is not a subscription fee.) Checks must be pay-
able to "George Mason University" and sent to Prof. Leo Hecht,
Chairman, Russian Studies, George Mason University, Fairfax,
VA 22030.
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47