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translation , twentieth (XX) century , literature , Ivan Bunin , neglect , perseption
Home | Studying Russia | Ivan Bunin and England: or, Why Bunin is omitted in the English Pantheon of "Russian Classics"

Ivan Bunin and England: or, Why Bunin is omitted in the English Pantheon of "Russian Classics"

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Ivan Bunin's art has long been recognized as 'classical' in the Russian literary criticism. It has been 'timidly' researched in the Soviet era, and during the 'perestroika' times and later on it has been rediscovered by new Russian scholars in the perspective of its synthetic character, its modernity and its psychological and ontological symbolism. Its public recognition in contemporary Russia is clearly confirmed by the establishment of Bunin literary prize in 2005, by unveiling Bunin's statue in Moscow in 2007 and by that his name was chosen by Russians among the 50 most important 'names of Russia' in 2008. Yet, in England Bunin is still to be 'gained': as was stated by Judith Maas (The Boston Globe) on October 25, 2007 in her review of an edition of Bunin's stories, the Russian writer is 'known among English-speaking readers mainly for one short story, The Gentleman From San Francisco. Years of critical neglect and the difficulties of translation have restricted interest in his work to scholars of Russian literature'. The statement can be made even more precise in respect of English literary criticism and the English reader, if we take into account that the majority of books comprising new translations of Bunin's works since the year of 1990 has been published in the USA (the ratio is 12:3).

I argue that there are two main causes of the specific British reception of Bunin's art. The first one is rather objective, since it is rooted in Bunin's reserved realism, his deliberate opposition to the aesthetic and philosophic tendencies of his time and his art's intuitive balance between the modern and the traditional, the subconscious and the conscious, the religious and the rational. The second one is mostly connected with the literary taste, concerns and other aspects of English literary context in the 1910s – the beginning of the 1920s – the time of England's first neglect of and acquaintance with Bunin's art.

Ivan Bunin and England: or, Why Bunin is omitted in the English Pantheon of "Russian Classics"- Svetlana Klimova . Paper given at the Fifth Fitzwilliam Colloquium in Russian Studies "British Perception and Reception of Russian Culture, 18th-20th Centuries", Cambridge, 2012. Full text published in A People Passing Rude: British Responses to Russian Culture, ed. By Anthony Cross. Open Book Publisher, 2012.