In the Wilderness:
The Prose of Lev Lunts
Translated with an introduction
and notes by Gary Kern
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xii, 282 pages, paperback
Here in one volume are the chief prose works of the Russian dramatist, prosaist and literary critic, Lev Natanovich Lunts (1901-1924). Included are ten stories, six articles, three book reviews, a novella and selections from his letters to Maxim Gorky and to his parents. All of these works are filled with the spirit of the 1920s, the excitement of literary experimentation and the desire to attain a mastery of form and expression so as to help create a new prose for postrevolutionary Russia. Many works relate to the literary group, The Serapion Brothers, of which Lunts was a founding member. On the personal level, Lunts repeatedly refers to his Jewish heritage and his feeling of alienation as a writer who seeks to combine both Jewish and Russian culture. Outstanding in this respect are his three Biblical story-stylizations: "In the Wilderness," "The Castrate" and "The Homeland."
Lunts did not live to realize his dreams. The other Serapion Brothers outlived him and helped to preserve quality writing in Russia during the long, repressive period of the Stalin years. But since he had died without making compromises, Lunts remained a beacon of hope for those writers who knew of his views. The literary critic Victor Erlich called his polemical articles "The most forthright plea for creative freedom to be found in the annals of Soviet literature."
After his death, Lunts's works were withheld from the Russian public for the rest of the Soviet period (1922-1991). Yet all its citizens knew of him after 1946, since they were obliged to read a Stalinist diatribe of that date in the school curriculum in which party leader Andrei Zhdanov denounced him and other Serapion Brothers. His complete works, including his previously unpublished novella, The Tsar's Treasure, finally were published in Russia in 2003 and 2007.
In the Wilderness is the second volume of three devoted to Lev Lunts. The other two are Things in Revolt: The Theater of Lev Lunts and Journey On a Hospital Bed: The Correspondence & Memoir of Lev Lunts. Each volume is self-contained, though each naturally complements the other. Most of the works in the three volumes are translated for the first time.
LEV LUNTS (1901-1924) was a literary firebrand of post-revolutionary Russia, a dramatist, proser and polemicist, and one of the founders of the "Serapion Brothers." As an irrepressible critic of state control and conformity in the arts, Lunts sharply challenged the Bolshevik authorities; his plays were banned, his name went on a list and after his death all of his works were withheld from the Russian public for the duration of the Soviet period. Most people in Russia learned about him from a Stalinist denunciation of 1946 that was part of the school curriculum. Abroad he was known chiefly for his articles, considered "the most forthright plea for creative freedom to be found in the annals of Soviet literature." (Victor Erlich) Only in the 21st century have his complete works been published in Russia, including the previously unpublished novella The Tsar's Treasure, so that now a full and fresh appreciation of his talent can finally be made.
Translation of the story "In the Wilderness"
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