Yevgeny Alexandrovich Yevtushenko
Yevgeny Alexandrovich Yevtushenko
Yevgeny Alexandrovich Yevtushenko (born 1933), the most popular of contemporary Soviet poets, was the leading literary spokesman for the generation of Russians who grew to maturity after Stalin's death in 1953.
Yevgeny Yevtushenko was born on July 18, 1933, in Zima, Siberia, into a peasant family of mixed Ukrainian, Russian, and Tatar stock. His father, a geologist, and his mother, a geologist and singer, were divorced in the early 1940s, and Yevgeny spent his early childhood in Moscow with his mother and sister, Yelena.
During World War II Yevtushenko was evacuated to Zima, returning to Moscow in 1944. Expelled from school on a false charge, he ran away to Kazakhstan; he joined his father on geological expeditions there and to the Altai, later returning to Moscow. As a youth, Yevtushenko was an athlete; his favorite sports were cycling, table tennis, and soccer.
Yevtushenko published his first poem in 1949 in a Soviet sports magazine and thereafter became a regular contributor to Komsomolskaya Pravda, Literaturnaya Gazeta, Novy Mir, and other important Soviet publications. As a result of the success of his first book of poetry, The Prospectors of the Future (1952), he joined the Soviet Writers' Union and began studying at the Gorky Literary Institute, which he left after several years without graduating.
After Stalin's death in 1953, Yevtushenko abandoned his pro-Stalinist themes and began writing love poetry. The following year he married Bella Akhmadulina, a poet (they were later divorced). Third Snow (1955), his second book of poems, was heavily attacked by official critics, and he became famous. Other volumes of verse were published in 1956 and 1957. "Zima Junction," his finest poem, relates a visit to his hometown in 1953 and reflects the confusion and search for values of a young man in post-Stalinist Russia. The rebellious attitudes characteristic of the poems of these years provoked attacks by the more orthodox Soviet writers and critics, but Yevtushenko's fame continued to grow. His themes, both personal and social, were marked by an unconformist attitude and conveyed a strong feeling of human sympathy.
Longbow and Lyre (1959) contained poems about Georgia and translations from the Georgian language. Poemsof Several Years (1959), a retrospective anthology, contained most of Yevtushenko's best shorter poems. The Apple (1960) marked a distinct falling-off in his work, but his next book, A Sweep of an Arm (1962), contained some of his most powerful poems.
Beginning in 1961, Yevtushenko traveled extensively outside the Soviet Union. He made trips to Bulgaria, France, Ghana, Cuba, the United States, and Great Britain. Everywhere he was received as an unofficial representative of post-Stalinist Russia. Reading his poems before large audiences, he received widespread adulation. Westerners were entranced, as Marc Slonim (1964) wrote, by "this tall, handsome, outgoing Siberian, an athletic, devil-may-care fellow, who personified youth and poetry."
Bratsk Station (1965) is a collection of poems that presents a panoramic view of Russian history and celebrates the creative efforts of the Soviet builders of communism. A 5,000-line, 35-poem cycle, it commemorates the construction of a vast hydroelectric power complex in Siberia; the poet contrasts it as a symbol of faith and human progress to an Egyptian pyramid. The work was not entirely successful, and Slonim argued that Yevtushenko "simply does not have enough breadth and power to make large compositions poetically convincing—despite the sonority, catching rhythm and verbal dynamism of numerous separate passages. It could be argued that, in general, he shows more talent for lyrical stanzas than for narrative poetry or vociferous political verse."
The Immortal Babiy Yar
Perhaps Yevtushenko's most famous poem is "Babiy Yar," written in 1961 and later revised. It memorializes some 96,000 Jews massacred by the Nazis in a ravine near Kiev during World War II. Until the publication of this poem, the Soviet government had not acknowledged that most of the victims of the Babiy Yar massacres were Jews. The poem strongly indicts continuing anti-Semitism in the Soviet Union, concluding with the lines: "No Jewish blood runs among my blood,/ but I am as bitterly and hardly hated/ by every anti-Semite/as if I were a Jew. By this/ I am a Russian." The poem was rapturously received by a Russian public, and was even defended by Nikita Khrushchev, who allowed it to be published in the leading newspaper, Pravda.
An Unpopular Stance
But Khrushchev was not so liberal in 1962, when Yevtushenko dared to publish an uncensored and unscrutinized autobiography in the West. A Precocious Autobiography first serialized in Stern included a frank discussion on the tragic flaws in Soviet society, laid the blame for many of them at the late Joseph Stalin's door, and announced the author's intention of trying to work for social improvement. The result was immediate. Yevtushenko was publicly denounced by Khrushchev for cheap sensationalism, and vilified for his sentiments and even for his literary technique.
Khrushchev himself was under the gun, and in fact, was ousted in October 1964, and replaced by the unyielding, intensely conservative Leonid Brezhnev. Like other literary figures, Yevtushenko began to chafe under the scrupulously observed new restrictions, and was allowed neither to travel nor to give his usual poetry readings.
He lived in relative obscurity until 1966, when his name surfaced again in connection with the trial of Yuli Daniel and Andrei Sinyavsky, two writers who had been caught after smuggling supposedly anti-Soviet books to the West for clandestine publication under pen names. Along with several other writers, Yevtushenko protested the trial, and was almost stopped from traveling to America that same year. Permitted to go only because his passport had already been issued, he later claimed to have been told by Senator Robert Kennedy that America's Central Intelligence Agency had been the agency responsible for getting the writers into trouble. Supposedly, they had contacted their Russian counterparts and told them about Sinyavsky and Daniel and their ploy for publication, in order to deflect attention away from criticism against the Vietnam War.
Interviewed in 1987 by Time magazine, he commented on why he felt it imperative to support these writers despite the danger to his own reputation. Using the expression glasnost, the Russian word for "openness", that will forever be associated with Mikhail Gorbachev, the Soviet Union's democratic leader of the 1980s, Yevtushenko looked back on the Daniel/Sinyavsky trial and remarked: "Glasnost is us. We fought for it for many years past."
Fresh Fields to Conquer
In 1991, a collection of his work called Fatal Half Measures, was published by Random House. Centered around the themes of glasnost and perestroika, the book contained excerpts from several earlier works, all supporting Yevtushenko's strong political convictions. His concerns about the rising racism and increasing desperation of Russian society came strongly to the fore, as they have done in many other works. In the essay "A Nation Begins with Women", Yevtushenko entreated that Russian women at last be treated with long-overdue respect, paid salaries on a par with those earned by men doing the same jobs, and offered opportunities to hold positions of authority in an economy long monopolized by men. Perhaps his most telling comment is the one concluding this piece: "Can a nation be respected if it does not respect its women?"
Yevtushenko had also been trying his wings in new fields. His first novel, Wild Berries was published in 1984, to a lukewarm reception, and after several others, Don't Die Before You're Dead (1995) received favorable attention from most major reviewers. Dealing with the attempted coup that took place in Russia in 1991, the book detailed the fortunes of several actual people (Yeltsin, Gorbachev) as well as fictional ones, designed to show a panorama of Russian society.
Yevtushenko also ventured into photography, with Divided Twins: Siberia and Alaska and Invisible Threads . Even films offered him a world of novelty worthy of exploration. In 1995 a movie he co-directed, called I Am Cuba, found an audience, though judgmental, generally labelling it, in the words of The Nation "a film that has still not found its historical moment." This was certainly no deterrent to the vigorous Yevtushenko, who had always regarded the possibility of improvement as a zestful challenge.
By 1996 he was back in New York, teaching Russian poetry and literature at Queens College. He chose to live among his students in Queens, rather than in Manhattan, with the majority of his more prosperous colleagues because he enjoyed the wide ethnic mix that Queens had always offered.
All of Yevtushenko's major works are available in English translation, in several versions of varying quality. Bratsk Station, and Other New Poems, translated by Tina Tupikina-Glaessner, Geoffrey Dutton, and Igor Mezhakoff-Koriakin, is a brilliant translation of Yevtushenko's major work. Another good source on Yevtushenko is his A Precocious Autobiography, translated by Andrew R. MacAndrew (1963). For critical commentary, see Marc Slonim's, Soviet Russian Literature: Writers and Problems (1964), and Olga Carlisle's, Poets on Street Corners: Portraits of Fifteen Russian Poets (1969).
Fatal Half Measures, Random House, 1991.
Atlantic Monthly, October, 1995.
New York Times, November 12, 1995; February 7 1996.
The Nation, March 20, 1995.
Time, February 9, 1987. □
"Yevgeny Alexandrovich Yevtushenko." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 22, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/yevgeny-alexandrovich-yevtushenko
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Yevtushenko, Yevgeny Alexandrovich
YEVTUSHENKO, YEVGENY ALEXANDROVICH
(b. 1932), Russian poet, playwright, novelist, essayist, photographer, film actor; member of Congress of People's Deputies, 1989–1991.
Yevgeny Yevtushenko was brought up in Siberia by his mother; when she moved with him to Moscow in 1944 she registered his date of birth as 1933. He published his first poem in 1949 and his first book in 1952. Yevtushenko studied at the Union of Writers' training school, the Gorky Literary Institute, Moscow, in the early 1950s. He emerged after 1956 as one of the leading lights of the Thaw under Nikita Khrushchev, in many ways epitomizing its values and aspirations, and has remained a public figure ever since. His personal lyrics expressed a new and liberating sense of passionate individuality, and his poems on public themes called for and declared a fresh commitment to revolutionary idealism, in the spirit of Mayakovsky. His attitudes were underpinned by a frequently asserted commitment to the supremacy of Russia as a fountainhead of positive human values, notwithstanding Russia's own dark history and the blandishments of Western civilization.
Yevtushenko declaimed his poetry in a histrionic manner that has reminded some Americans of U.S. fundamentalist preachers. In the early 1960s Yevtushenko became hugely popular in Russia, and his recitals (often in the company of his then wife Bella Akhmadulina, Andrei Voznesensky, and Bulat Okudzhava) attracted large crowds to the stadiums in which they were characteristically held. Yevtushenko's national and international reputation was established by two poems in particular, "Baby Yar" (published September 1961) and "The Heirs of Stalin" (published in Pravda, October 1962), which call respectively for unrelenting vigilance against anti-Semitism and the recurrence of Stalinism in Russia.
Yevtushenko soon began travelling abroad, a proclivity that has eventually taken him by his own count to ninety-five different countries. More than any other aspect of his activities, his freedom and frequency of travel led others to question the fundamental nature of his relationship with the Soviet authorities. His own protestations about how he was continually censored, rebuked, and restricted, and how he persistently used his position to plead for others in more parlous situations, have increasingly been interpreted as part and parcel of his conniving in being used as a licensed dissident
whose fundamental adherence to the Soviet system and willingness to accommodate himself to it never wavered. His outstanding poetic mastery has never been in doubt, but beginning in the 1970s, the rise of poets who rejected Yevtushenko's flamboyant style, public posturing, and acceptance of privilege led to a growing view of him as a figure of the hopelessly compromised past. Partly in response, Yevtushenko branched out into other areas of creativity. During the later 1980s he demonstratively led the way in publishing Russian poetry that had been censored during the Soviet period. Since the collapse of the USSR he has lived mainly in the United States, regularly traveling back to Russia for public appearances, and has continued to publish prolifically in a variety of genres and argue his case in media interviews.
See also: mayakovsky, vladimir vladimirovich; okudzhava, bulat shalovich; thaw, the
Yevtushenko, Yevgeny. (1991). The Collected Poems, 1952–1990, ed. Albert C. Todd. New York: Holt.
Yevtushenko, Yevgeny. (1995). Don't Die Before You're Dead. New York: Random House.
"Yevtushenko, Yevgeny Alexandrovich." Encyclopedia of Russian History. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 22, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/yevtushenko-yevgeny-alexandrovich
"Yevtushenko, Yevgeny Alexandrovich." Encyclopedia of Russian History. . Retrieved October 22, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/yevtushenko-yevgeny-alexandrovich
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Yevtushenko, Yevgeny Aleksandrovich
Yevgeny Aleksandrovich Yevtushenko (yĕv´tōōshĕng´kō, Rus. yĬvgā´nyē əlyĬksän´drəvĬch yĬvtəshĕn´kō), 1933–, Russian poet, b. Zima. Along with Andrei Voznesensky and several others he helped revive the tradition of Russian lyric poetry. Yevtushenko's first book of poems was published in 1952. He soon became the most popular spokesman of the young generation of poets who refused to adhere to the doctrine of socialist realism. Yevtushenko: Selected Poems (1962) contains four of his most famous poems:
an indictment of Soviet hypocrisy,
protesting Soviet anti-Semitism,
an autobiographical work, and
"The Heirs of Stalin,"
a denunciation of the Soviet system. His long poems include The Bratsk Station (1964–65) and Kazan University (1970). His Collected Poems, 1952–1990 appeared in 1991. The publication in Paris of Yevtushenko's Precocious Autobiography (1963) brought him severe official censure, and he was frequently criticized by the Russian government for his nonconformist attitude. Despite this, he made several reading tours abroad during the Soviet era. He has also written novels, notably Wild Berries (tr. 1984), essays, and the semiautobiographical, post-Soviet work Don't Die Before You're Dead (tr. 1995), an account of the 1991 triumph of Boris Yeltsin (Yevtushenko served in the Soviet parliament from 1988 to 1991). In addition, he is an actor, director, and photographer. His name is sometimes transliterated Evtushenko.
See The Collected Poems, 1952–1990 (1991).
"Yevtushenko, Yevgeny Aleksandrovich." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 22, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/yevtushenko-yevgeny-aleksandrovich
"Yevtushenko, Yevgeny Aleksandrovich." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved October 22, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/yevtushenko-yevgeny-aleksandrovich
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"Yevtushenko, Yevgeny." World Encyclopedia. . Retrieved October 22, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/yevtushenko-yevgeny
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BORN: 1933, Stanzia Zima, Siberia, USSR (now Russia)
GENRE: Poetry, fiction, drama, nonfiction
The Apple (1960)
Babi Yar (1961)
Wild Berries (1984)
Almost at the End (1987)
Don't Die before You're Dead (1995)
Yevgeny Yevtushenko is the Soviet Union's most publicized contemporary poet. He became the leading literary spokesman for a generation of Russians in the post-Stalin era, and he is often considered one of the first dissident voices to speak out against Stalinism. His 1987 prose and poetry collection Almost at the End established him as a prominent spokesman for Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev's glasnost campaign of political liberalization.
Works in Biographical and Historical Context
Born under the Sign of Stalin Yevgeny Yevtushenko was born on July 18, 1933, in Stanzia Zima, Siberia. His father Gangnus was a geologist, and his mother, Zinaida, was also a geologist, as well as being a singer. Yevtushenko's family was of mixed Ukrainian, Russian, and Tatar heritage. His maternal grandfather, Ermolai, was a Red Army officer during the Russian Revolution and the civil war; both Ermolai and Yevtushenko's paternal grandfather were accused of being “enemies of the people” and were arrested in 1937 during Stalin's purges. Estimates of the number of deaths associated with the Great Purge, the most significant of these, range from the official Soviet number of 681,692 to close to 2 million.
Spokesman for a Liberal Youth Yevtushenko began writing early, and crafted his first verses and song lyrics by the time he was seven years of age. After his parents divorced in the early 1940s, the young Yevtushenko spent his early childhood in Moscow with his mother and sister, Yelena, and in the late 1940s traveled with his father on geological expeditions to Kazakhstan and Altai, Siberia.
Yevtushenko was attending Gorky Literary Institute in Moscow when he published his first volume of poetry, The Prospectors of the Future (1952). Following the Twentieth Communist Party Congress of 1956—during which Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev publicly enumerated the crimes of former leader Joseph Stalin—Yevtushenko emerged as a prominent spokesman for Russian youth and for the new regime's commitment to more liberal policies. At about the same time he published his next work, Winter Station (1956), a highly acclaimed long poem first published in the Soviet journal Oktiabr.
Political and International Attention In 1955, his third poetry collection, Third Snow, was published, followed by Highway of the Enthusiasts in 1956, Promise in 1957, and The Bow and the Lyre in 1959. During the late 1950s, Yevtushenko emerged as a leading nationalist proponent of the Cold War “thaw” between the Soviet Union and the United States. This thaw was envisioned as a way for the two cultures to better the chances of a peaceful future through cultural exchanges with one another. Granted permission by government authorities to deliver poetry readings in both countries in 1960, Yevtushenko soon became Russia's best-known living poet.
While new volumes of his verse—including The Apple (1960), Tenderness: New Poems (1962), and A Wave of the Hand (1962)—appeared in the Soviet Union, Yevtushenko's early verse was introduced to English readers through such collections as Selected Poems (1962) and Selected Poetry (1963). In one of his most controversial poems of this period, “Stalin's Heirs,” Yevtushenko describes a fictional reawakening of Stalin following a brief interment in the tomb of Communist leader Vladimir Lenin, implying that Russians should beware the reemergence of Stalinism. Such a warning was not entirely without merit, as the rise to power of Leonid Brezhnev signaled a movement away from the reforms of his predecessor, Khrushchev, and the reconstitution of a Stalinesque authoritarian state (culminating first in the crushing of the anti-Soviet Prague Spring in 1968 and then in the invasion of Afghanistan in 1979).
Russian Reprimand While Yevtushenko was on tour reading from his latest works, the publication in France of his A Precocious Autobiography (1963) was arranged without Soviet permission. With this volume—combining his political views with memoirs of his youth—Yevtushenko was reprimanded for his personalized interpretation of Russian history. He was, however, permitted to continue publishing, and he again attracted international recognition for his next volume, New Works: The Bratsk Station (1965), in which the poet praises Russian workers by contrasting them with earlier, ancient civilizations. That same year Yevtushenko received the USSR Commission for the Defense of Peace award.
Diversified Work Yevtushenko's poetry of the early 1970s was collected in several books, including the particularly successful Stolen Apples (1971). It was also in these years that Yevtushenko began working on plays. His drama Under the Skin of the Statue of Liberty (1972), a series of revue sketches set in the United States, was originally produced by Yuri Lyubimov, a leader in the Soviet avant-garde theater. Under the Skin achieved popular success in Russia, though it was faulted for Yevtushenko's inability to impart his concerns to Western audiences.
Yevtushenko followed his dramatic work with two more poetry collections, The Face behind the Face (1979) and Ivan the Terrible and Ivan the Fool (1979). In 1979 he also expanded his repertoire to include acting for the cinema. He appeared in such Soviet films as Take-Off (1979) and The Kindergarten (1983). In the early 1980s, Yevtushenko gradually moved away from poetry to experiment with various prose forms, including A Dove in Santiago: A Novella in Verse (1982).
A Celebrated Novelist, a Politician, and a Traveling Poet-Teacher Yevtushenko's first novel, Wild Berries (1984), was originally published in 1981 in the Soviet periodical Moskva, and is likened to an American thriller with its emphasis on action, sex, and exotic locales. Despite that work's mixed reception—Soviet critics faulting it for focusing on war miseries instead of triumphs; Western critics praising its sincerity—Wild Berries made Yevtushenko a 1985 finalist for the Ritz Paris Hemingway Award for best 1984 novel published in English. That same year also saw him receiving the esteemed USSR state prize and publishing his second novel, Ardabiola.
LITERARY AND HISTORICAL CONTEMPORARIES
Yevtushenko's famous contemporaries include:
Sawako Ariyoshi (1931–1984): A Japanese novelist whose works concern significant social issues, such as environmental pollution and treatment of the elderly.
Jean-Luc Godard (1930–): A French/Swiss filmmaker best known for being one of the pioneers of the French New Wave in film.
André Previn (1930–): A German-born American award-winning pianist, composer, and conductor known for such film scores as Porgy and Bess, Gigi, and My Fair Lady.
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (1918–2008): A Russian author and dissident famous for his novels depicting the harsh conditions in Soviet labor camps.
Mikhail Gorbachev (1931–): The final leader of the Soviet Union, who partially engineered its collapse in 1991 and who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1990.
In the waning moments of the Soviet Union and the fall of the Iron Curtain (under Gorbachev), Yevtuskenko served from 1988 to 1991 in the first freely elected Russian parliament since the revolution, where he fought against censorship and other restrictions. Yevtushenk's more recent works, both then and in the post-Soviet era, have focused on problems in human interaction with the natural environment; but he has—to the surprise and chagrin of many observers—been less than critical of autocratic president Vladimir Putin. Today, Yevtushenko divides his time between Russia and the United States, teaching at both the University of Oklahoma at Tulsa and at Queens College of the City University of New York. He has also served as an artist in residence at a number of other institutions. His more recent works include the film Stalin's Funeral (1990) and the novel Don't Die before You're Dead (1995), which is a satirical retelling of the 1991 events that ended the Soviet Union and lifted Boris Yeltsin to power.
Works in Literary Context
Lyrical Style for Political and Personal Themes Long prescribed by scholars of Russian poetry is a favoring of emotion over principles, and it is a prescription Yevtushenko follows. He makes use of a lyrical style that many critics have compared with early twentieth-century poet Vladimir Mayakovsky for its rage against hypocrisy and passivity. In all of his works Yevtushenko presents nationalistic and critical views on political, civic, and personal themes.
The long poem Winter Station (1956) is Yevtushenko's attempt to resolve personal doubts as well as moral and political questions raised by Stalin's regime. In the title piece of New Works: The Bratsk Station (1965), Yevtushenko contrasts the use of slaves to construct the Egyptian pyramids with the willingness of Russian workers to build a hydroelectric complex in Siberia. In his drama Under the Skin of the Statue of Liberty (1972), Yevtushenko condemns American violence while praising the idealism of the nation's youth. In Ivan the Terrible and Ivan the Fool (1979), he returns to nationalistic concerns to contrast the abused working class with the dreaded autocrat who transformed Russian culture and society during the sixteenth century. In Ardabiola (1984), composed of chapters written in diverse styles and combining elements from several genres, he takes the opportunity to satirize Soviet culture and government and to address the influence of American materialism on Russian youth. And Almost at the End (1987—and it came indeed almost at the end of the Soviet Union) features as its centerpiece the poem “Fuku,” a long work in which Yevtushenko uses a cinematic style and combines traditional poetry, free verse, and prose to comment on such characteristic concerns as history, tyranny, and justice.
Works in Critical Context
Eastern-bloc and Western critics alike have often vacillated in their opinions of Yevtushenko's work, in part because he tends to embrace opposing ideologies and he tends to alternately celebrate and censure elements of both Communist and capitalist approaches to civilization. Yet his poems are often commended for their political significance, optimism, and explosive use of language. Representative of the wide array of criticism are responses to two works, Babi Yar and Wild Berries.
Babi Yar (1961) Originally published in the periodical Literaturnaya gazeta, Babi Yar garnered international acclaim. The title of this long poem refers to a ravine near Kiev, where historians estimate that between thirty-four thousand and one hundred thousand Jews were massacred by the Nazis during World War II. Babi Yar was ridiculed by many Soviet critics for its accusation that many Russian people harbor anti-Semitic sentiments—a claim that, Yevtushenko asserted, was corroborated by public indifference to erecting a memorial on the site. Contemporary critics have often read Yevtushenko through the lens of Holocaust studies, as seen in historian Dagmar Herzog's argument that Yevtushenko's political victory with the poem Babi Yar “was a hollow one,” because the memorial erected after the poem's success refers to those massacred not as Jews but simply as “citizens of Kiev and prisoners of war.”
Wild Berries (1981) Yevtushenko's first novel, Wild Berries, is said to celebrate Russian philosophy and existence but at the same time is similar to an American thriller. The book was faulted by Soviet critics for its emphasis on the miseries of war rather than past military triumphs and for its treatment of Stalin's deportation of the kulaks (landowning peasant farmers) in the 1930s. Wild Berries was praised by many Western reviewers for Yevtushenko's sincerity of purpose. Critic Susan Jacoby further expressed the multiple views on the author when she commented, “In American terms, [Yevtushenko] might best be imagined as a hybrid of Walt Whitman and Norman Mailer—with all the extravagant enthusiasms, risk-taking, self-promotion, blundering and talent that might be expected from such a creature.”
COMMON HUMAN EXPERIENCE
In its way, Yevtushenko's work is concerned not only with depicting, but also with understanding, the working of politics in culture. Here are a few other works by writers who have addressed the cultural impacts of politics in their writing:
The Great Game: The Struggle for Empire in Central Asia (1992), a political study by Peter Hopkirk. This nonfiction survey closely considers the “great game” played between Tsarist Russia and Victorian England for supremacy in Central Asia.
Mourning Dove: A Salishan Autobiography (1994), a cultural history by Mourning Dove (Christine Quintasket). In this sprawling narrative, the Native American author recounts life with the Colville Confederated Tribes of the Pacific Northwest at the dawn of the twentieth century.
Red Azalea (1994), a memoir by Anchee Min. In this autobiographical work the author recounts her biggest challenge, in which she was forced to choose between self-will and the will of the Chinese Communist Party.
The Republic of Poetry (2006), a book of poems by Martín Espada. These poems explore the politics of Latin American loyalty and freedom.
This Earth of Mankind (1991), a novel by Pramoedya Ananta Toer. Indonesian political dissident Toer offers an intriguing story of love and colonialism in turn-of-the-century Java.
Responses to Literature
- According to Russian writer and fellow dissident Andrei Sinyavsky, Yevtushenko seeks in his work “to communicate the experience of the modern age and to connect this with the experience of the past, with Russian history.” Consider how one of Yevtushenko's works seeks to connect past with present, structuring your thoughts as a thesis-driven essay.
- In 1952, Yevtushenko joined the USSR Union of Writers, also known as the Union of Soviet Writers. What differences do you find in his writing from after this time. Does this joining appear to have had a significant impact on his style? Why or why not?
- In 1957 Yevtushenko was expelled from the Literary Institute for displaying “individualism.” Research different definitions of “individualism.” Why do you think Yevtushenko's brand of individualism was seen as a threat to Soviet culture? Support your position with detailed analysis of passages from his work.
- With the novel Ivan the Terrible and Ivan the Fool (1979), Yevtushenko returned to nationalistic concerns: he contrasts Ivan the Fool, the ill-used but unstoppable working-class folk hero, with Czar Ivan the Terrible, the autocrat who oversaw extensive changes in Russian culture and society during the sixteenth century. Do a Web search for background information on Ivan the Terrible (Ivan IV). Summarize the leader's personality and how he came to earn the “terrible” moniker. Then, consider how he is contrasted with the working-class citizen in the novel.
Blair, Katherine Hunter. A Review of Soviet Literature. Port Townsend, Wash.: Ampersand, 1966.
Brown, Edward James. Russian Literature Since the Revolution. New York: Collier, 1963.
Yevtushenko, Yevgeny. A Precocious Autobiography. New York: Dutton, 1963.
Brownjohn, Allen. “Travellers Alone.” Poetry 89 (October 1956): 45.
Jacoby, Susan. “Shostakovich; ‘Babi Yar’ Troubles.” New York Times, March 19, 2000.
Aytmatov, Chingis. Spin Tongues. The Sail of Poetry. Retrieved May 16, 2008, from http://spintongues.msk.ru/aytmatov.html.
Bedford/St. Martin's Lit Links. “Yevgeny Yevtushenko, b. 1933.” Retrieved May 16, 2008, from http://bcs.bedfordstmartins.com/litlinks/Pages/Main.aspx.
Nation, Brian. Boppin a Riff. Three Poems by Yevgeny Yevtushenko. Retrieved May 16, 2008, from http://www.boppin.com/poets/yevtushenko.htm. Last updated on May 7, 2008.
Russian Culture Navigator. “A Poet in Russia” (Marking the 65th birthday of Yevgeny Yevtushenko). Retrieved May 16, 2008, from http://www.vor.ru/culture/cultarch30_eng.html. Last updated on July 18, 1998.
"Yevtushenko, Yevgeny." Gale Contextual Encyclopedia of World Literature. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 22, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/arts/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/yevtushenko-yevgeny
"Yevtushenko, Yevgeny." Gale Contextual Encyclopedia of World Literature. . Retrieved October 22, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/arts/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/yevtushenko-yevgeny