Journey on a Hopital Bed
Lev Lunts & the Serapion Brothers
Translated, with an introduction
and notes by Gary Kern
Order (Amazon.com) $20
340 pages, paperback
Literary Nonfiction. Fiction. Memoir. Literary Criticism. Jewish Studies. Translated from the Russian, edited, and introduced by Gary Kern. A large and luxurious volume, with many photographs, devoted to a young Russian writer, dramatist and polemicist, Lev Lunts, and the literary group that he co- founded, the Serapion Brothers. The first section features articles, book reviews and memoirs that recover the war-torn yet inspired literary milieu of St. Petersburg in the early 1920s. Authors Vladislav Khodasevich, Maxim Gorky, Yevgeny Zamyatin, Viktor Shklovsky, Konstantin Fedin, Veniamin Kaverin, Mikhail Slonimsky and Lev Lunts describe the utopian projects of the time, the fantastic House of Arts on Nevsky Prospekt, the "literary studio" and its astonishing staff of teachers, and the formation of the Serapion Brothers. The second section presents the correspondence of Lunts with the Serapions and friends from the year 1923-1924, when he was abroad receiving medical treatment. The two sides of the correspondence, which became available only in 2007 and now are translated for the first time into English, create a time capsule that brings back the people, their personalities, their creative activities, their daily concerns, their romances and their cultural environment with striking immediacy. The third section presents the title work, a memoir of the dying youth in a sanatorium in Königstein-im-Taunus. Lunts writes with determined good humor, as if wit and mockery could make the inevitable go away. They could not: he died, and his works were censored for the rest of the Soviet period. Now he is making a comeback. In 2009, a lost collection of stories by the Serapion Brothers was discovered in Finland, and in 2013 it was published in Petersburg. The previously unknown story by Lunts is translated here as a postscript.
JOURNEY ON A HOSPITAL BED is the third and final volume of a set devoted to the works of Lev Natanovich Lunts (1901-1924). The other two are THINGS IN REVOLT: THE THEATER OF LEV LUNTS and IN THE WILDERNESS: THE PROSE OF LEV LUNTS. Each volume is self-contained, yet naturally complements the other two.
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.
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