Pub Date1995
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Abram Tertz and the Poetics of Crime

Catharine Theimer Nepomnyashchy
Yale University Press

Andrei Sinyavsky is one of the most important Russian writers of the post-Stalin period, author of highly esteemed and controversial fiction, essays, and criticism that he has published for the past three decades both under his own name and under the pseudonym Abram Tertz. Yet there has been little written on the works of Sinyavsky/Tertz until now. Catharine Theimer Nepomnyashchy fills the gap, examining Tertz’s writings for the first time.

Nepomnyashchy begins by discussing the explosive literary scandals touched off by the works of Tertz in Russia and in the Russian emigré community in the West. She argues that the controversies stem from the fear of uncontrolled language that runs deep in Russian culture, a fear that the Tertz texts seek to subvert by testing the limits of verbal representation. After examining the attacks on these works over the years, Nepomnyashchy turns to close textual analyses of the individual works—novels and novellas including The Trial Begins and Goodnight, the short stories, Tertz’s collection of aphorisms Thoughts Unawares, his prison-camp memoir A Voice from the Chorus, and the critical studies Strolls with Pushkin and In the Shadow of Gogol—and shows how these works liberate and redefine the roles of writer, reader, and text.