Victor Beilis was born in 1943, in Turkmenia, and is a well-known specialist on African culture. The range of his scholarly interests includes African religions, literature, folklore and sociology, the mythology of the nation and the mythology of the individual. He traces human archetypes which are rooted in childhood and is fascinated by mythological thinking and ritual features in human behaviour.
Strangely, his African studies have had no effect on his creative writing, which remains European in spirit. Beilis has been writing all his life and is well known in Russian literary circles. He came to Glas's attention on the recommendation of Tatyana Tolstaya who described his prose as philological fiction.
Victor Beilis has also written a memoir about his Grandmother which is a vivid and comprehensive portrait of Jewish life in the early 20th century Russia.
Although he is currently living in Germany, he is a regular contributor to some of the top literary periodicals in Russia.
Death of the Prototype, a novel. 200 pp.
Synopsis + excerpt
The novel is set in a Moscow artistic circle of the late 20th century. Its members are engaged in mutual bantering and lampoons, as well as serious discussions of painting and poetry. However, they are mostly preoccupied with analyzing and juxtaposing two basic principles of human existence: male and female. There are flashbacks to the 19th century Russia, Italy, and France, literary allusions to German poetry, Italian Mannerism, magic rituals, and much else. And above all, a mysterious portrait of an unknown beautiful woman runs as a red thread through the story, affecting the fates of the characters.
All the above provide a background to a love story whose heroine figures in various guises, she is viewed from different angles and by different individuals. As the story unfolds the reader becomes increasingly aware that the woman featuring in various love affairs must be the same one in fact. Finally a collective portrait is created of a striking and talented woman loved by several no less striking men, who all depict her as a personification of love itself. With each new love story her personality and those of her lovers reveal unusual new facets including through the womanís own letters to various personages.
On the whole the novel examines genuine human emotions and declares a personís private life as the supreme value with all the transient factors, political events and time itself as inessential.
Rehabilitation of Freud. Collected Novellas, 200 pp.
In the short novel Bakhtin and Others Beilis shows the role cultural settings play in the life of Russian intellectuals, and how relationships transform into almost incestuous connections: Bakhtin termed this "Australian mythology", meaning a tangle of indissoluble human embryos sharing the same suffering, the same mind and conscience. The great Russian scholar's namesake finds himself in the company of the namesakes of 19th century writers, becoming increasingly more involved in their torments and troubles, which turn out to be his own. When he tries to extricate himself from this "human larvae", he finds that he is unable to do so, thus realizing the limits of his freedom. The image is supposed to convey the specific nature of the concept of freedom in Russia.
Other stories probe the mysteries of love and art, man's relationship with his inner self, and the philosophy of the name. Existentialist in nature, Beilis's stories are written in the classical style of Russian realism with a touch of old-fashionable traditionalism that is so appreciated by all lovers of good writing.
The book has been published in English translation in the USA.