front cover of Empire of Objects
Empire of Objects
Iurii Trifonov and the Material World of Soviet Culture
Benjamin M. Sutcliffe
University of Wisconsin Press, 2023
Although understudied in the West, Iurii Trifonov was a canonical Soviet author whose lifetime spanned nearly the whole of the USSR’s history and who embodied many of its contradictions. The son of a Bolshevik murdered on Stalin’s orders, he wrote his first novel in praise of the dictator’s policies. A lifelong Muscovite, he often set his prose in the Central Asian peripheries of the USSR’s empire. A subtle critic of the communist regime, he nonetheless benefited from privileges doled out by a censorious state. 

Scholars have both neglected Trifonov in recent years and focused their limited attention on the author’s most famous works, produced in the 1960s through 1980s. Yet almost half of his output was written before then. In Empire of Objects, Benjamin Sutcliffe takes care to consider the author’s entire oeuvre. Trifonov’s work reflects the paradoxes of a culture that could neither honestly confront the past nor create a viable future, one that alternated between trying to address and attempting to obscure the trauma of Stalinism. He became increasingly incensed by what he perceived as the erosion of sincerity in public and private life, by the impact of technology, and by the state’s tacit support of greed and materialism. Trifonov’s work, though fictional, offers a compelling window into Soviet culture. 

front cover of Ludmila Ulitskaya and the Art of Tolerance
Ludmila Ulitskaya and the Art of Tolerance
Elizabeth Skomp and Benjamin M. Sutcliffe, Foreword by Helena Goscilo
University of Wisconsin Press, 2015
Novelist Ludmila Ulitskaya is a crucial cultural figure in contemporary Russia, garnering both literary awards and best-seller status. Engaging with the past to combat the creeping authoritarianism of the Putin era, she has become the latest in a long line of Russian dissident authors championing the values of liberalism and tolerance while critiquing the state. Ludmila Ulitskaya and the Art of Tolerance is the first English-language book about this influential writer, contextualizing her in the shifting landscape of post-Soviet society and culture.
            Drawing on interviews with Ulitskaya and sources not readily available to Western scholars, Elizabeth A. Skomp and Benjamin M. Sutcliffe explore the ethical ideals that make Ulitskaya’s novels resonate in today’s Russia—tolerance, sincerity, and diversity—and examine how she uses innovative imagery to personalize history through a focus on body and kinship. This is essential reading for anyone interested in contemporary Russian literature and society.

front cover of The Prose of Life
The Prose of Life
Russian Women Writers from Khrushchev to Putin
Benjamin M. Sutcliffe
University of Wisconsin Press, 2009
Both before and after the collapse of the Soviet Union, everyday life and the domestic sphere served as an ideological battleground, simultaneously threatening Stalinist control and challenging traditional Russian gender norms that had been shaken by the Second World War. The Prose of Life examines how six female authors employed images of daily life to depict women’s experience in Russian culture from the 1960s to the present. Byt, a term connoting both the everyday and its many petty problems, is an enduring yet neglected theme in Russian literature: its very ordinariness causes many critics to ignore it. Benjamin Sutcliffe’s study is the first sustained examination of how and why everyday life as a literary and philosophical category catalyzed the development of post-Stalinist Russian women’s prose, particularly since the collapse of the Soviet Union.
    A focus on the representation of everyday life in women’s prose reveals that a first generation of female writers (Natal’ia Baranskaia, Irina Grekova) both legitimated and limited their successors (Liudmila Petrushevskaia, Tat’iana Tolstaia, Liudmila Ulitskaia, and Svetlana Vasilenko) in their choice of literary topics. The Prose of Life traces the development, and intriguing ruptures, of recent Russian women’s prose, becoming a must-read for readers interested in Russian literature and gender studies.

2009 Outstanding Academic Title, Choice Magazine


Send via email Share on Facebook Share on Twitter