Latynin, Leonid (Aleksandrovich) 1938-
LATYNIN, Leonid (Aleksandrovich) 1938-
Born 1938, in Privolzhsk, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (now Russia). Education: Studied philology at Moscow University, 1960-64.
Khudozhestvennaya Literatura Publishing House, radio commentator, Youth magazine, poetry division, 1962-74. Researcher of icons and local crafts in northern Russia, 1970s; translator of Central Asian poetry, 1980s.
V chuzhom gorode: "Grimer i Muza" (novel), Sov. Pisatel (Moscow, Russia), 1988.
Obriad: Stikhotvoreniia, 1965-1991, Glas (Moscow, Russia), 1993.
Spiashchii vo vremia zhatvy (novel), Glas (Moscow, Russia), 1993, translation by Andrew Bromfield published as Sleeper at Harvest Time, Zephyr Press (Boston, MA), 1994.
The Face-Maker and the Muse, translated by Andrew Bromfield, Glas (Moscow, Russia), 1999.
Foneticheskii shum. Evgenii Vitkovskii: Dialogi, Vodolei Publishers (Tomsk, Russia), 2002.
Russkaya Pravda, Vodolei Publishers (Tomsk, Russia), 2003.
Also author of Stavr and Sarah and The Den, both from Glas, and Patriarshie prudy, 1977.
WORK IN PROGRESS:
Two more novels to complete a trilogy begun with Sleeper at Harvest Time.
Hailed as a post-realist Russian writer, Leonid Latynin was trained as a philologist and has become an expert in pre-Christian Russian culture and in Russian icons. Both of these interests are apparent in his fiction, including two novels translated into English: Sleeper at Harvest Time and The Face-Maker and the Muse. Though published later, The Face-Maker is actually the earlier novel; it was written in the 1960s and distributed in 1977 in the underground samizdat of the day. "Readers of samizdat were engrossed in the anti-utopia—Orwell, Zamyatin, Huxley, Kafka—and my novel was inevitably perceived in terms of that familiar, standard code," Latynin noted on his Internet home page. In fact, Latynin further explained, he had no such intention with his novel. Instead, The Face-Maker and the Muse "is basically a novel about the fate for an artist and a prophet, about his rise and his downfall, about his responsibility for the metamorphoses undergone by his own ideas. The novel is, if you wish, a metaphor for the fate of the artist in the world."
In Latynin's fable, inhabitants of a nameless city have no names unless they are part of the privileged class. Everyone else is assigned numbers instead of names, and their numerical ranking depends on how similar they look to the prescribed features of the model face that was designed and sculpted by the Great Face-Maker. A contributor for Publishers Weekly described the novel as "dense and challenging." Isobel Montgomery, writing in the Manchester Guardian, found the novel an "over-determined allegory," but she also had praise for it, noting that it "resonates with beguiling ideas."
Sleeper at Harvest Time pursues Latynin's style farther, employing some of the structures of magic realism in a fable-like story about a young boy born to a sorceress and fathered by a bear. Described as "part history, part imaginary chronicle, part incantation and part biblical narrative" by Michael Scammell in the New York Times Book Review, the novel chronicles the life and times of Emelya, a wanderer in both time and place. Born in the tenth century on the very spot where modern Moscow would later be built, he faints at seeing his mother burned to death after she is accused of bringing the plague to their village. Awaking in twenty-first-century Moscow, Emelya is caught between worlds. Latynin's narrative switches back and forth between this modern totalitarian Russia and various historical epochs, ending with Emelya's ultimate execution by stoning in the modern world. In this dystopic future, Russian blood determines all; when it is discovered that Emelya has a strange ethnic blood in his veins, his fate is sealed.
Scammell felt that Latynin's novel represents an "interesting new direction in which to take the post-Communist search for Russia's roots." Though Scammell felt that Latynin's "reach exceeds his grasp," creating a book with a "paper-thin" plot and "sketchy" characterization, he also noted that the work "is not without interest." But for V. D. Barooshian, writing in Choice, Latynin "evinces a rich lore of Russian religious history." And Jerzy R. Krzyanowski, reviewing Sleeper at Harvest Time in World Literature Today, thought that the book was written in a "highly ornamental, rich style" and stated that it "makes fascinating reading." Sleeper at Harvest Time is the first novel of a projected trilogy.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Choice, June, 1995, V. D. Barooshian, review of Sleeper at Harvest Time, p. 1600.
Guardian (Manchester, England), May 13, 2000, Isobel Montgomery, review of The Face-Maker and the Muse, p. 11.
New York Times Book Review, December 25, 1994, Michael Scammell, review of Sleeper at Harvest Time, p. 9.
Publishers Weekly, February 28, 2000, review of The Face-Maker and the Muse, p. 62.
World Literature Today, autumn, 1995, Jerzy R. Krzyanowski, review of Sleeper at Harvest Time, p. 824.
Leonid Latynin Home Page,http://www.latynin.ru/ (January 22, 2004).
Russian Press Service Web site,http://www.russianpress.com/ (January 22, 2004).