Necropolis

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 28 Jul 2019

Member Reviews

What a delight this book was! In each of the nine chapters, poet Vladislav Khodasevich talks about one of the seminal figures from Russia’s Silver Age of the 1920s and 1930s, from Esenin to Gorky, Blok to Bely and others. He knew all of these writers, associated with them frequently and brings them to life on the page. The early 20s were a vibrant and exciting time in Russia but also a very challenging tone, and sometimes it was a challenge simply to survive. Hunger and poverty affected them all. Khodasevich writes with insight and honesty, never flattering his subjects and is quite sharp at times. He felt free to express himself openly as he wrote after his subjects’ death. I found the book a brilliantly evocative portrait of the time and place and it’s a fascinating literary memoir which will appeal to any lover of Russian literature.
Was this review helpful?
Fascinating, compelling, and so well written.  This book has given me a lot of food for thought, and is one which I will be considering for some time.
Was this review helpful?
Inventive and stimulating, Necropolis is a series of nine biographical character sketches, each dedicated to a significant figure from Russian literature's Silver Age. The work vividly brings these personalities to life, and the sharp translation flows exceptionally well.
Was this review helpful?
Although somewhat dense reading at times, and not geared towards those unfamiliar with the Russian symbolist poets, Necropolis should greatly appeal to those already versed in the genre from an academic or historical perspective. It's somewhat hard to describe - it's impressionistic while still being coolly withdrawn. Very interesting for the additional perspectives on these literary figures' lives.
Was this review helpful?
This is an important Russian text memorializing Russian literary figures within the movement of Russian symbolism. I found some parts interesting, and other parts dry. It did inspire me to learn more about the Russian Symbolism.

This book is not ideal for the layman. People familiar with the Russian Symbolism, and the literary figures this book is about will best appreciate this book.
Was this review helpful?
'Necropolis' is a morbid title and may mislead; it seems so-named mainly because he wrote his sketches of people after their deaths, so it's a set of obituaries. Honest memoirs. Gorky, after reading a previous that isn't too flattering, urged the author to do him, too, when he's gone. Gorky comes out of the treatment rather splendidly, although his devotion to lies is portrayed both in its ideal aspects -- where dreams of betterment are too rare and precious to kill with a truth -- and in its quotidian inexplicable outcomes. There are a few wonderful character studies. It didn't much affect my interest whether I'd heard of the figure or whether they were minor writers or failed attempters. Their lives intersect in the first two decades of the Russian 20th century. Symbolists, most of them, poets and prose. The memoirist can be sharp but not bitchy, and is often poignant on his friends and acquaintance.

Content note: suicides. But I thought the same when I read Tchaikovsky: The Quest for the Inner Man, which ended about when this book began: this society needs suicide prevention.

I read an ARC from NetGalley. Unfortunately the Introduction wasn't yet in place; I'll want to catch up with that when the book is published.
Was this review helpful?
Three and a half stars.

This publishing strand has either frustrated me or made me really quite pleased, depending on the results from its expeditions into the depths of long-tail Russian literature.  Certainly even the more audience-friendly pieces in their output aren't exactly going to rush off the shelves.  But here they would appear to have excelled themselves, and plumbed even further, for we have a collection of essays, by a bloke we've never heard of, all in response and in memoriam to the lives of Russian and Soviet authors we've mostly never heard of, all of whom were connected by one artistic style, which – yup, you guessed it.  But actually in getting the pieces in this order, we almost get a novelistic narrative.  Certainly the book reads as if it might as well be a novel, so little do we know of these characters before finding them here.  We open with a woman who suffered a lot of tragedy, partly at least a result of two men – and we then encounter those each in turn, with their own lives to be conveyed.  Yes, I had heard of Blok, and of course Gorky, but what we get from our ignorance is a kind of construction of linked short stories, and as a result the book is actually a lot more readable by the average audience member than it would at first appear.  No, not all the chapters completely fit my theory, and no novel would have as many people top themselves as here.  But still, likes and dislikes, affairs, publishing or rubbishing, these authors did a lot in concert or in opposition with each another, and the details of those here may be dry, and intended to be academic and educative, but I also found them to be woven together just as tightly as any fictional iteration of the same contents.  For that surprise I think this is one of the more intriguing volumes from this imprint, even if it will still never appeal to many.
Was this review helpful?
Khodasevich memorializes a series of significant Russian literary figures, producing an "insightful obituary" not only of the era, "Russia’s literary Silver Age", but also of the authors that shaped Russian literary tradition.
Was this review helpful?