If literature is a mirror of life, then the revolution of 1917 could be seen as a hammer that broke that mirror into multiple pieces. Some writers chose exile, others stayed. Of those who stayed, some believed in the party line and complied with it; others didn’t. Some works were published in a million hardcover copies; others were read in typewritten “samizdat” copies or kept “in the drawer” for decades. This lecture explores the impact of 1917 on Russian authorship and readership: What did it mean to be Akhmatova, Mandelstam, or Tsvetaeva under Stalin? How did the situation of Bulgakov or Pasternak differ from that of Gorky or Sholokhov? How did Bunin and Nabokov or, later, Solzhenitsyn and Brodsky, fare abroad? And what does it mean to be a reader of these writers—then and today?
Katia Mitova holds an MA in comparative Slavic studies from the University of Sofia, Bulgaria and an MA and PhD from the Committee on Social Thought at the University of Chicago. Her research and teaching interests include storytelling as well as the relationship between ethics and aesthetics. She is the 2008 recipient of the Graham School of Continuing Liberal and Professional Studies Excellence in Teaching Award.