Russian Poet/Soviet Jew

Russian Poet/Soviet Jew

by Maxim D. Shrayer

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"Russian Poet/Soviet Jew: The Legacy of Eduard Bagritski"i is a ground-breaking work of biography and literary criticism. Maxim D. Shrayer explores the problem of Jewish identity in the early Soviet period by examining the short but brilliant career of Eduard Bagritskii (1895-1934), a major Russian-Jewish poet. Overlooked in the West, Bagritskii's life and art typify the tortured destiny of Russia's Jews. Shrayer paints an intimate portrait of his subject, providing rare photographs of Bagritskii's life and the first English translations of his major works.

Born in Odessa, Bagritskii participated in both the February 1917 Revolution and the Russian Civil War--these events formed the thematic core of his writings. Like his close friend and artistic contemporary Isaak Babel, Bagritskii moved to Moscow in the 1920s. Bagritskii's later years were marked by a critical examination of his own Jewish identity. As a Jew, a Russian poet, and a revolutionary idealist, Bagritskii once believed that the liberated Jews of the Russian Empire would enjoy harmony with their fellow Soviet citizens, giving rise to the new figure of Homo sovieticus Judaeus. Bagritskii's dreams were shattered as a wave of popular anti-Semitism struck Soviet society in the late 1920s. He realized that Soviet ideology not only demanded that Jews shed their cultural, historical, and religious identity but also encouraged them to engage in a Soviet brand of Jewish self-hatred. The poet's initial rejection of his Jewish self was followed by a return to a biblical notion of Jewish selfhood. Bagritskii's last testament, the narrative poem February,is a controversial story of a Jewish youth's rejection by and subsequent triumph over an ethnic Russian girl from the upper class. "Russian Poet/Soviet Jew" includes the first English translation of this seminal work.

Much more than the first English-language book about Bagritskii, "Russian Poet/Soviet Jew" also serves as a general introduction to the generation of Jews of the Pale that became prominent in the early Soviet decades.

Product Details

BN ID: 2940158016172
Publisher: Brookline, Ma.
Publication date: 12/16/2015
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
File size: 20 MB
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About the Author

The bilingual author and scholar Maxim D. Shrayer was born in Moscow, in 1967, to a Jewish-Russian family, and spent almost nine years as a refusenik. He and his parents, the writer and doctor David Shrayer-Petrov and the translator Emilia Shrayer, left the USSR and immigrated to the United States in 1987, after spending a summer in Austria and Italy. Shrayer attended Moscow University, Brown University, Rutgers University and received a Ph.D. at Yale University in 1995. He is Professor of Russian, English, and Jewish Studies at Boston College, where he co-founded the Jewish Studies Program, and an associate at Harvard University’s Davis Center. He edits the book series “Jews of Russia & Eastern Europe and Their Legacy.” Shrayer has authored and edited over ten books of criticism, biography, non-fiction, fiction, poetry, and translation, among them the critical studies "The World of Nabokov’s Stories" and "Russian Poet/Soviet Jew." He is the author of the acclaimed literary memoirs "Waiting for America: A Story of Emigration" and "Leaving Russia: A Jewish Story" (finalist of the 2013 National Jewish Book Awards), and of the story collection "Yom Kippur in Amsterdam." He has also edited and cotranslated three books of fiction by his father, David Shrayer-Petrov, for the Library of Modern Jewish Literature. Shrayer won a 2007 National Jewish Book Award for his two-volume "Anthology of Jewish-Russian Literature." His book "I Saw It: Ilya Selvinsky and the Legacy of Bearing Witness to the Shoah" appeared in 2013. Shrayer new book, "Bunin and Nabokov: A History of Rivalry," was published in 2014 in Moscow and became a bestseller. Shrayer is the recipient of a number of awards and fellowships, including those from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the Bogliasco Foundation. He lectures widely on topics ranging from the legacy of the refusenik movement and the experience of ex-Soviet Jews in America to Shoah literature and Jewish-Russian culture. Shrayer lives in Massachusetts with his wife, Dr. Karen E. Lasser, a medical researcher and physician, and their two daughters. They divide their time between Brookline and South Chatham. In 2014 Shrayer and his wife cofounded the South Chatham Writers’ Workshop.
For more information, visit Shrayer’s literary website at

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