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Varlam Shalamov’s Kolyma Tales

A Formalist Analysis


Nathaniel Golden

This book analyses eleven of Varlam Shalamov’s Kolyma Tales from a neo-Formalist perspective. The tales are a testament to Shalamov’s seventeen years in Stalin’s Gulags, and were written in an attempt to draw attention to this period in Soviet history. Nathaniel Golden has primarily utilised L. M. O’Toole’s work Structure, Style and Interpretation in the Russian Short Story as the major basis for analysis, but has incorporated many other Formalist and indeed Structuralist methods.
The tales in each chapter are analysed by means of five major Formalist categories: Narrative Structure, Point of View, Fabula and Sujet, Characterisation and Setting. This process highlights many of Shalamov’s ideas and motifs in the tales. He frequently uses techniques of estrangement and paradox to augment camp experience, reflecting his belief that there is no moral, emotional or spiritual gain in suffering. He habitually employs a ‘focaliser’ to tell the tale from a near-death perspective and in consequence distances the author from events. His literary background is prominent within the tales, where he occasionally alludes to earlier Russian authors and their works to indicate the recurring nature of Man’s fallibility against the Gulag background. His characters are often simply portrayed yet representative of flawed heroes and the baseness of human beings subjected to an existence in extremis. His settings are minimal, yet form a major part of his message: Man is compared to nature, but nature is powerful and able to regenerate itself, whereas Man’s existence is temporary and futile.
This book therefore, shows that the Formalist approach is indeed still valid as a literary tool of analysis as well as showing that upon the 50th year of Stalin’s death, Varlam Shalamov’s time has arrived.


Karen Underhill

Bruno Schulz’s complex and ambivalent relationship with Jewish tradition and subject matter, and his use of Hasidic and kabbalistic tropes and imagery, are viewed alongside modern intellectual and artistic currents prominent within the Jewish community at the time he was writing. Specifically, the essay discusses the trend dubbed “fin de siècle Orientalism” and the influence of Martin Buber’s work on the perception of Hasidic culture among the generation of acculturated, “de-racinated” Jews in the Austro-Hungarian Empire to which Schulz belonged. The article goes on to explore the divergent paths through which Buber and Schulz engaged and incorporated elements of Jewish tradition in their respective forms of “remythologization”.


Anna Śliwa

The aim of this article is to investigate the degree of similarity between Bruno Schulz’s and Miron Białoszewski’s writing. The problem will be researched by comparing both writers’ spatial imagery using a method of close-reading. When thinking about the spatiality in Schulz’s and Białoszewski’s literary works, we have to admit that it is almost impossible to imagine without the city. Their writing is strongly filled with urban space, and the status of the civilian plays an important role in forming the identity of the subject. Particular attention will be paid to the aspect of “mythologizing” the city.


Arent van Nieukerken

This article analyzes the short story Stigma written by the Polish romantic poet Cyprian Kamil Norwid (1824-1883) against the background of nineteenth-century critical theology that attempted to diminish the gap between the transcendent God and the immanent world. This is usually accomplished by humanizing Christ, the Son of God, who is seen as “the most perfect of man”. An important representative of this conception was the French positivist historian Ernest Renan, the author of the famous Vie de Jésus. In Stigma Norwid engages in a veiled discussion with Renan’s ideas. The Polish poet tries to show that the traces of the transcendent God can be perceived ‘here and now’, in the world of sense-data and social conventions. These traces refer to ‘sacred history’, the life, death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ and the apostles. They are, however, usually overlooked, not because they are ‘hidden’, but as consequence of a wrong attitude of man. He (or she) must undergo a transformation, become him[her]self a subject of ‘sacred history’ (the narrator misses his chance to ‘become’ Saint Paul, on the road to Damascus), touch the stigmata of Christ. When we fail to undergo this transformation, we perceive being as ‘objective’, ruled by an impeccable chain of causes and effects, explained by positivist ‘science’. In this case we also loose our own liberty and turn out to be objects, determined by the ‘stigma’ of race and nature. What we take for liberty is only ‘chance’. This positivist point of view is not so much ‘wrong’ as one-sided. It often leads to fatal misunderstandings, by which human beings are destroyed, as shown by the plot of Stigma.

Signs of Friendship: To Honour A.G.F. van Holk, Slavist, Linguist, Semiotician

‘Liber amicorum’ presented to André G.F. van Holk on the occasion of his 60th birthday, and in celebration of 20 years of Slavic studies under his direction at Groningen University

Edited by Joost van Baak

Slobodanka Vladiv-Glover

, Raskolnikov who represents this new consciousness is also a (non-Marxist) split consciousness which models the modern phenomenological split subject, captured most explicitly by Freud a few years after Dostoevsky’s death in his monumental Dream Analysis (1900). It is as if Raskolnikov were two characters

Eward Ascroft

structure, the narrator’s voice, and the representation of the protagonists, as well as being immanent to and elliptical in the text itself. By means of these psychic functions, which come to expression in the plot and structure of Dostoevsky’s works, a world is constructed in which the subject not only

Géza S. Horváth

the new word-body, the word in action , separated from the old word-body. Moreover, the transgression in the grotesque has to be considered as a categorical infringement , as a violation of the bounderies between body and word, subject and object, external and internal, outside and inside. 6 The