Founded by Maksim Gorky and Kornei Chukovsky in 1919 and disbanded in 1922, the Petrograd House of Arts occupied a crucial moment in Russia's cultural history. By chronicling the rise and fall of this literary landmark, this book conveys in greater depth and detail than ever before a significant but little studied period in Soviet literature.
Poised between Russian culture's past and her Soviet future, between pre- and post-Revolutionary generations, this once lavish private home on the Nevsky Prospekt housed as many as fifty-six poets, novelists, critics, and artists at one time, during a period of great social and political turbulence. And as such, Hickey contends, the House of Arts served as a crucible for a literature in transition. Hickey shows how the House of Arts, though virtually ignored by Soviet-era cultural historians, played a critical role in shaping the lively literature of the next decade, a literature often straddling the border between fiction and non-fiction. Considering prose writers such as Yevgeny Zamyatin, Olga Forsh, the Serapion Brothers group, Viktor Shklovsky, Boris Eikhenbaum, as well as poets including Alexander Blok, Nikolay Gumilev, Anna Radlova, Osip Mandelstam, and Vladislav Khodasevich, she traces the comings and goings at the House of Arts: the meetings and readings and lectures and, most of all, the powerful influence of these interactions on those who briefly lived and worked there. In her work, the Petrograd House of Arts appears for the first time in all its complexity and importance, as a focal point for the social and cultural ferment of the day, and a turning point in the direction of Russian literature and criticism.