All Future Plunges to the Past explores how Russian writers from the mid-1920s on have read and responded to Joyce's work. Through contextually rich close readings, José Vergara uncovers the many roles Joyce has occupied in Russia over the last century, demonstrating how the writers Yury Olesha, Vladimir Nabokov, Andrei Bitov, Sasha Sokolov, and Mikhail Shishkin draw from Joyce's texts, particularly Ulysses and Finnegans Wake, to address the volatile questions of lineages in their respective Soviet, émigré, and post-Soviet contexts. Interviews with contemporary Russian writers, critics, and readers of Joyce extend the conversation to the present day, showing how the debates regarding the Irish writer's place in the Russian pantheon are no less settled one hundred years after Ulysses.
The creative reworkings, or "translations," of Joycean themes, ideas, characters, plots, and styles made by the five writers Vergara examines speak to shifting cultural norms, understandings of intertextuality, and the polarity between Russia and the West. Vergara illuminates how Russian writers have used Joyce's ideas as a critical lens to shape, prod, and constantly redefine their own place in literary history.
All Future Plunges to the Past offers one overarching approach to the general narrative of Joyce's reception in Russian literature. While each of the writers examined responded to Joyce in an individual manner, the sum of their methods reveals common concerns. This subject raises the issue of cultural values and, more importantly, how they changed throughout the twentieth century in the Soviet Union, Russian emigration, and the post-Soviet Russian environment.
Introduction: How Joyce Was Read in Russia
1. Yury Olesha: An Envy for World Culture
2. Vladimir Nabokov: Translating the Ghosts of the Past
3. Andrei Bitov: In Search of Lost Fathers
4. Sasha Sokolov: "Here Comes Everybody" Meets "Those Who Came"
5. Mikhail Shishkin: Border Crossings
Conclusion: How Joyce Is Read in Russia
José Vergara is Assistant Professor of Russian at Bryn Mawr College.
I heartily recommend it to anyone even vaguely interested in the topic. This is a book I'll be returning to for years to come.
José Vergara's important new book presents an illuminating account of the reception of a major figure of Western modernism. Vergara is the first to explore in detail how Joyce's texts served as a source of inspiration and a polemical tool for major Russian authors of the Soviet and post-Soviet eras.
~Los Angeles Review of Books
The homeopathic capacity of a book to have a transformative effect in trace quantities is central to All Future Plunges to the Past, Jose Vergara's nuanced study of Russian responses to James Joynce. Vergara gathers a wealth of seemingly slight snippets of evidence in five chronologically organized case studies, which taken together demonstrate a productive and illuminating engagement with Joyce.
~Times Literary Supplement
All Future concludes with excerpts from interviews with contemporary Russians[that] serve as a foil to make Vergara's own learned and imaginative meditation on Joyce sparkle all the more brightly.
José Vergara's study makes a compelling case for persistent attention to the legacy of James Joyce within Russian literature of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. What Vergara convincingly shows is that for Russian writers in the twentieth century, Joyce figured as the pre-eminent modernist writer of prose the standard to emulate adapt or rebel against.
All Future Plunges to the Past will be of interest to those studying the twentieth- and twenty-first-century Russian novel and, more broadly, the spaces of Western European cultures in Russian literary representation. The clearly composed text and the precise documentation will assuredly facilitate further research.
~Slavonic and East European Review
Vergara's examples of intertextual connections between Russian texts and Joyce's œuvre collectively provide valuable insight into the evolution of intertextuality in Russia over the course of the long twentieth century. All Future Plunges to the Past demonstrates how each of these five important Russian writers adapted Joyce's stylistic and philosophical methods as they attempted to bridge the time and space between Russia and European (post)modernism.
~Modern Language Review
José Vergara's book attentively traces Joyce's influence on Russian literature, which still remains to a large extent terra incognita. All Future Plunges to the Past is useful and topical, highlighting important trends in the Russian literary history through the Joycean prism. Having made a few observations above, below I would like to offer some further remarks.
~Canadian American Slavic Studies
Gennady Barabtarlo Prize for Best Essay
AATSEEL Best First Book