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Seeing Time in Georgia Circa 1928: Bely, Tretiakov and the Soviet Sublime

Evgeny Pavlov *99, University of Canterbury in New Zealand
Monday, November 13, 2017 -
4:30pm to 6:00pm
245 East Pyne
Monday, November 13, 2017 -
4:30pm to 6:00pm

In the rich canon of Soviet travel writings of the 1920s-30s, no two works could be further apart than Andrei Bely’s rather obscure book Veter s Kavkaza (Wind from the Caucasus, 1928) and Sergei Tretiakov’s Svanetia (1928), later adapted as a film script for Kalatozishvili’s Sol’ Svanetii (Salt of Svanetia,1930). Based on radically different aesthetic foundations, Bely’s and Tretiakov’s texts seek to represent the physical and human landscape of Soviet Georgia in its revolutionary transformation. In his spatially focused narrative, Bely obsessively tries to find adequate expressive means for representing his subjective experience of time as a rhythm of social change. Tretiakov, on the other hand, resolutely brackets any subjective perception of time’s passage and sees his mission in a dispassionate capturing of facts in a system of coordinates where one could trace “social processes” and “a change in the function of things over time.” Bely’s and Tretiakov’s respective exercises in the art of seeing provide rich material for theorizing the aesthetic underpinnings of their rival representational modes neither of which found much use by the time of the First Congress of Soviet Writers in 1934. 

Evgeny Pavlov *99 is Associate Professor of Russian Studies at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand. He is the author of Shok pamiati: avtobiograficheskaia poetika Val’tera Beniamina i Osipa Mandel’shtama (Moscow: NLO, 2005) and of numerous articles on the literature of Russian modernism and on contemporary Russian poetry. He is currently completing a book manuscript on modes of time travel in Soviet literature of the late 1920s.

Sponsored by
Program in Russian, East European and Eurasian Studies and Dept. of Slavic Languages and Literatures