Emil Draitser (ed.). Russkie poety XX veka: antologiia dlia studentov. Tenafly, NJ: Hermitage Publishers, 2000. 184 pp., $12 (paper).
Currently, the publishing house, Hermitage Publishers is engaged in a commendable project of making a variety of materials in the original available to students and instructors of Russian. These encompass poetry and prose readers, separate texts and compilations featuring such nineteenth- and twentieth-century Russian authors as Zukovskii, Pushkin, Turgenev, Leskov, Dostoevskii, Tsvetaeva, Bunin, Brodskii, Aksenov, Iskander, Dovlatov, to mention just a few. These publications will supply Russian upper division students with affordable and accessible reading materials while sparing instructors time and effort of compiling readers.
The volume under review is one of two contributions into this pull of Russian language source materials by professor Emil Draitser, who teachers Russian literature at Hunter College. This reader meets a specific pedagogical need as a source book for university classes on Russian poetry, and is based on 12 years of the compiler's personal experience teaching twentieth-century Russian poetry to speakers of English. Draitser's other contribution, a reader in nineteenth-century Russian poetry was unavailable to the present reviewer.
The anthology includes texts by such celebrated Russian poets as Blok, Akhmatova, Maiakovskii, Mandelshtam Esenin, Tsvetaeva, Pasternak and Brodskii who are admittedly among the biggest figures in twentieth-century Russian poetry. As Draitser states in the publisher's note, this reader is designed for English speaking students who have had roughly three to four years of Russian. While compiling this selection he opted to include lyrical poetry, rather than longer poetic forms, aspiring to bring together poems representing these poets' prevalent themes. Given a considerable thematic and formal variety in these poets' heritage this objective certainly presents a challenge. In my opinion, Draitser meets it well, including canonical, rather than lesser known works by these poets.
Understandably, the compiler's choices cannot but reveal a certain measure of subjectivity, which, as Draitser justly admits, is inevitable in the compilation of any anthology.
His other goal is to reflect in this collection the main literary trends of the given historical period, which was also successfully accomplished. Despite its limited volume, the collection indeed features a variety of poetics, thematics, ideas, and trends.
The selection offers a user-friendly format, conveniently incorporating the selected poetry and important supplementary materials. These include one-page biographical summaries, notes designed to elucidate certain historical and cultural issues, as well as translations of vocabulary that goes beyond the scope of the targeted level of proficiency. Almost every line contains words set in bold type, whose English equivalents appear on the page's right-hand margin. English renditions offered by Draitser are not meant to be ideal equivalents of the Russian words-after all, perfection is hardly attainable in the domain of poetry translation-but rather to facilitate student's understanding and appreciation of the poems' imagery.
Other attractive features of the reader include numbered lines and marked accents. Good quality and affordable price will also be greatly appreciated by the reader's users.
The book would have benefited from careful proof-reading to reduce occasional omissions and typos. For example, an omission occurs on the conjunction of pages 28-29. While the last line on page 28 reads, "[присуждение] поэтической премии «Этна Таормина» в Италии и почётной" (28), the next page begins with the words "сборника «Бег времени» (1965)."-a clear indication that some text is missing. Later, the time-frame 1980-13 should read 1908-13 (142). On page 44 the second word on line 9 ends in "a" (Из сердца) not "e." The letter "м" is missing in the phrase "под давлением" (163). In the note on Belisarius, it should be "the (not they) Byzantine emperor" (176).
Albeit all selections of poetry are preceded by poets' biographical outlines, those do not obviate the need for a comprehensive overview that would place these poets in their socio-historical and cultural contexts. Such an introduction, however, is not included. Two more desirable inclusions-and staple components of the majority of readers-would have been a general glossary and bibliographies of these poets. Yet they are not part of the present format either. This anthology serves a sole purpose of bringing to the Russian poetry classroom reading materials and facilitating student's comprehension of the selected texts and it serves this purpose well. It will be welcome by both students and instructors of Russian literature as a valuable teaching resource.
CREES, University of Toronto