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LEONG, Albert 1935-2002

PERSONAL:

Born December 10, 1935, in Portland, OR; died of pancreatic cancer August 31, 2002. Education: University of Texas, Austin, 1953-54; University of Chicago, A.B. (with honors), 1961; attended Moscow State University and Leningrad State University, 1964-65; University of Chicago, A.M., 1966, Ph. D., 1970.

CAREER:

Sichuan Institute of Foreign Languages, Chongqing, China, visiting lecturer in comparative Russian literature and culture, 1984; University of Oregon, Portland, director, Russian and East European Studies Center, 1985-91, head of department of Russian, 1985-91, 1998, professor of Slavic languages, 1991-2002.

AWARDS, HONORS:

University of Chicago, fellowship, 1961-62; fellowships at University of Chicago, 1961-62, 1962-63, 1963-64, 1965-66; Inter-University Committee on Travel grants/Fulbright-Hays fellowship to USSR, 1964-65; Summer Faculty Research Award, University of Oregon, 1971.

WRITINGS:

(Editor) Ernst Neizvestny, Space, Time, and Synthesis in Art: Essays on Art, Literature and Philosophy, Mosaic Press (Oakville, NY), 1990.

(Editor) Oregon Studies in Chinese and Russian Culture, Peter Lang (New York, NY), 1990.

(Editor) The Millennium: Christianity and Russia, 988-1988, St. Vladimir's Seminary Press (Crestwood, NY), 1990.

Centaur: The Life and Art of Ernst Neizvestny, Rowman & Littlefield (Lanham, MD), 2002.

SIDELIGHTS:

Albert Leong taught for many years at the University of Oregon, presiding over the Russian and East European Studies Center and heading the Russian department, ultimately serving as professor of Slavic languages. In this capacity, he became an expert on the history and culture of Russia, and one of the foremost experts on Ernst Neizvestny, a leading Soviet-era sculptor and theorist who defied Soviet restrictions on artistic expression. In 1990, Leong published a collection of Neizvestny's essays setting forth the artist's views on a wide variety of artistic movements and personalities and tying his own work to these predecessors, often in rather argumentative terms. "However much this brash, confrontational style shows spirit and provides a welcome respite from cautious, scholarly argument, the connections he makes as he integrates himself into group after group of prominent names can be taken with a pinch or two of salt," concluded reviewer Jeremy Howard in the Slavonic and East European Review.

That same year, Leong published Oregon Studies in Chinese and Russian Culture, a wide-ranging series of essays on various aspects of art from "Man as a Visual Sign" to one of Leong's own essays, "Creative Uses of Technology in Teaching Language and Culture." "The primary focus, however, is on literary criticism, and the standard is consistently high," explained reviewer Geoffrey Smith in the Slavonic and East European Review. "And," Smith added, "as translation is itself a subject considered …it is fitting to conclude with praise for the six translations included here. I cannot be sure if Albert Leong's translations are periphrastic, lexical, or literal, but they have unfailingly come out as clear and eminently readable English."

In The Millennium: Christianity and Russia, 988-1988, another series of essays edited and sometimes translated by Leong, the authors confront one of the most important cultural influences in Russian history. Essays cover the original conversion of the Kievan Rus', its relation to Byzantine diplomacy, the influence of two remarkable princesses, Olga and Anna, and the influence of the church of a thousand years, and its anomalous position in the officially atheist Soviet Union. "The preface by Albert Leong explores Christianity and Russia, giving the lay reader a wonderful tour of the humanities and letters in Kievan Rus' and Russia.…Its brief argument on the distinctive phenomenon of dvoeverie, or 'double faith,' the two streams of culture which run through Russian society, one sponsored by the State, and the other a strong underground current, unofficial, yet powerful and deeply rooted in the life of the community, is intriguing," noted Canadian Slavonic Papers contributor David J. Goa.

Leong's final book, Centaur: The Life and Art of Ernst Neizvestny, is the first full-length biography of the Russian monumental sculptor. Drawing on years of study and a long personal relationship with Neizvestny himself, as well as on interviews with friends and family and numerous archival materials, Leong covers all the aspects of this combative artist. Neizvestny was willing to go toe to toe with Soviet Premier Nikita Khruschev himself to defend the right of the artist against the rigid control of the state, although it meant ten years of artistic obscurity. Indeed, much of the book concerns Neizvestny's complex relationship with Khruschev. After the fallen premier's death, Neizvestny constructed a graveside monument that included jagged pieces of white marble and black granite to illustrate the mix of idealism and repression in Khruschev's character. The book "excels at placing Neizvestny in the context of Soviet political and cultural history, and examining how he was misunderstood initially in the United States because of cold war stereotypes," wrote New York Times Book Review contributor Harlow Robinson. Robinson did fault Leong for sometimes providing too much documentation and too little insight, and for sometimes intruding too much on Neizvestny's story with his own travel experiences. Still, Robinson concluded, "These weaknesses aside, 'Centaur' is a serious and worthy consideration of the vexing moral and philosophical issues underlying the career of a courageous artist who …confronted the evil of the Soviet system mano a mano. "

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Canadian Slavonic Papers, March-June, 1992, David J. Goa, review of The Millennium: Christianity and Russia, 988-1988, pp. 169-171.

New York Times Book Review, August 25, 2002, Harlow Robinson, "The View from Khruschev's Head" p. 10.

Slavonic and East European Review, January, 1992, Geoffrey Smith, review of Oregon Studies in Chinese and Russian Culture, pp. 149-150; April, 1992, Jeremy Howard, review of Space, Time, and Synthesis in Art, pp. 341-342.*

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Leong, Albert 1935-2002

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