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Mikhail Petrovich Artsybashev (1878-1927) : a centennial presentation and assessment O’Dell, Sally Margaret

Abstract

As there has been no comprehensive literary study of the works of M. P. Artsybashev (1878-1927), it is the purpose of this dissertation to explore both the breadth and the depth of this author's most productive and significant prose period (1900-1912). Artsybashev's literary and journalistic career spans over twenty-five years, from the appearance of his first short story in 1900, to the period of his emigration in Warsaw at which time he co-edited the anti-Bolshevik newspaper, Za svobodu (1924-1927). During the prose period discussed herein, one may note a leading theme which was defined by the critics of Artsybashev's time as "Ultraindi-vidualism" (L' vov-Rogachevskii). Artsybashev called this philosophy "anarchical individualism," thus aligning himself with a popular social philosophy that developed in late nineteenth, early twentieth century Russia. Artsybashev's Collected Works comprise ten volumes, with additional works appearing in separate editions. Translations of his works appear in most major Western European languages as well as Danish and Japanese. His more popular works — stories, novels and plays — enjoyed success with American critics, who immediately accepted the author as one who wrote in the tradition of Russian literature. His writing does indeed reflect the influence of the two great nineteenth-century Russian Realists —Tolstoy and Dostoevsky. His realistic technique is now and then overlaid with elements of impressionism and expressionism, placing him within the framework of the fin de siècle artistic sensibilities. The organization of this study follows the chronological order of the works discussed, thus tracing themes, characterization, style, and narration. The views of Artsybashev's critics, which are noted throughout, illustrate to what extent the opinions(concerning this writer were most often vastly divided. Chapter I focuses on the author's earliest stories, which depict the individual tormented and limited by society. The long story "Smert'- Lande" is also presented here as a tie between these first stories and the novel San in. The special place of "Smert' Lande" among the author's other creations is discussed. Chapter II focuses on Sanin and the reception it was given by the critics. Chapter III views stories of contemporary Russian society, considering both personal and social problems. The theme of man's mortality dominates the stories discussed in Chapter IV. One of the manifestations of the existential dilemma, suicide, is the theme of Artsybashev's large novel U posled-nei cherty, presented in Chapter V. The final chapter, VI, attempts to discuss this author more generally, and to place him as an important minor prose writer of early twentieth century Russia. Artsybashev's life-long search for the answers to the eternal questions aligns him with the mainstream of the Russian Realist literary tradition. The battles waged by his characters against crushing fate may also be seen to prefigure the existentialist writings of Albert Camus and his formulation of the doctrine of the Absurd Man. Indeed, the beginnings of the twentieth century, with its manifold anxieties and challenges, are mirrored in Artsybashev's work.

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