The Soul of Russia (Paperback)
"Ecstasy, witchcraft, bewilderment-these ten loving vignettes on scandalous corners of Russian culture, by one of our most seasoned cultural critics, are a tribute to imperishable art even in our catastrophic time."
-Caryl Emerson, Professor Emerita of Slavic Languages and Literatures, Princeton University
In terms of literature, music, and film, it would be hard to outdo the sheer genius and creativity of Russia. These things constitute the soul of the nation, and it is this that Morris Berman explores in his latest work, The Soul of Russia. His central argument is that at the heart of this brilliance lies a particular idiosyncratic theme: the peasant-shamanic-folkloric tradition of the Russian people, which these artists, from Pushkin to Tarkovsky, drew upon for their inspiration. It was a "Dionysian" source, a nonrational one, and it endowed Russian creative work with what we would have to call vibrancy.
Berman presents ten Russian artists who have left their indelible imprint on our collective consciousness. Pushkin offers a supernatural puzzle that Russian scholars are still trying to solve to this day. Gogol tells a tale of a man who wakes up to discover he has lost his nose, and goes in search of it-while his nose has simultaneously taken on a life of its own. Andrei Bely, in Petersburg, explains the revolution of 1905 not through traditional sociological or historical analysis, but by means of a surreal panorama of Oedipal events. Chekhov wittily explores the erotic properties of food, while Diaghilev shocks Europe with the great Vaslav Nijinsky and the Ballets Russes. Composing for this radical dance company, Stravinsky manages to alter the face of music forever. Mikhail Bulgakov offers one of the greatest novels of the twentieth century, The Master and Margarita, and Tarkovsky responds to Stanley Kubrick's famous 2001: A Space Odyssey by coming up with Solaris, a film based not on superficial American techno-fetishism but on questions of love, reality, and human identity.
The Soul of Russia is a feast for the mind, but also for the senses-a book that readers will want to delve into more than once.
This book is also available from Echo Point Books as a hardcover (ISBN 1648373623).