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Boris Slutsky


ISBN 5-7172-0045-5
314 pages, illustrated

Translated and with commentaries by Gerald Smith

"In his translations of Boris Slutsky, Gerry Smith has given Russianless readers that rarest of gifts — a new poet; not a visionary poet like Akhmatova or Pasternak, but one bearing witness at ground level to another sector of the same Waste Land, the horrors of the Eastern Front." —
Jon Stailworthy

"...comparable in importance with the work of Solzhenitsin. ... Slutsky's approach reminds one of Chekhov, whose honest stories served him as a beacon in the moral darkness of his age." — The New York Review of Books

Boris Slutsky (1919-1986) has now emerged as one of Russia's great twentieth-century poets. Unlike his contemporary Solzhenitsin, this once ardent Stalinist remained inside the Soviet literary establishment, and kept his unacceptable work to himself. His best poetry and prose were published only after his death.
In Things That Happened the innermost thoughts of this clear-eyed tragedian are revealed as he enthused during the dynamism and terror of the 1930s, fought heroically in Russia, Romania, and Yugoslavia during the Second World War, and then became an increasingly sceptical witness to the de-stalinizations and re-stalinizations that preceded the terminal senility of the Soviet system under Brezhnev. Slutsky's external conformism masked an increasing distrust of the slogans and stereotypes of official ideology.
The poems are arranged so as to combine with Slutsky's memoirs and the editor's commentary in presenting a biographical survey of the poet's life and the times he lived through. In his memoirs Slutsky recalls, for example, that the officially trumpeted heroism of tank crews who burned to death in their tanks was in reality often motivated by fear of the punishment meted out to those who allowed equipment to fall into enemy's hands.

Gerald Smith, Professor of Russian in the University of Oxford, supplies a detailed running commentary to a testament that appears for the first time in English.

"Gerald Smith has given us a text that should be made mandatory reading for anyone who wants to understand the Soviet Union ... His work is more important and more interesting than the dissident pieces as it presents perhaps the purest example of the sensibility of a Soviet intellectual of the first generation educated entirely under Soviet system." — Victor Terras in World Literature Today