Rights sold: Russia - ARSIS BOOKS

This volume, published posthumously, was compiled when Sharov already acutely sensed his own end. Of its thirteen entries, one is on literature (Platonov, “without whom and outside of whom our twentieth cen-tury will never be understood”) and four on Russian history; these final five entries supplement earlier themes. But the first half of the book is urgently new. The author is embedded in every word. It is autobiographical, however, only in Sharov’s modest and decentered sense of a memoir: not a Bildungsroman focused on his own coming-of-age, but horizontal, anecdotal, literally a cross-pollination at the level of small living things.

At the radiant center of these remembrances is his father, Aleksandr Izrailevich Sharov (né Nyurenberg), who began as a geneticist, switched to journalism in the late1930s, and finally took refuge in literature. The essays then spread outward in space and time to Sharov’s early neighborhood, school teachers, the provincial town of Voronezh, crucial friends and interlocutors (including an open letter to his friend Alexander Etkind), and a memoir on how he came to write The Rehearsals. Sharov admits that the entries in both volumes overlap. “After some hesitation,” he writes, “I finally decided to leave everything as it was, and simply beg the readers’ pardon for the repeats. With some goodwill, they can be considered in the nature of a refrain”.

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