Authors: Viktor Shklovsky

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Russian critic

Author Works


Voskreshenie slova, 1914 (criticism; Resurrection of the Word, 1972)

Svintsovyi zhrebii, 1914 (criticism)

Rozanov, 1921 (criticism; English translation, 1982)

Khod konia, 1923 (criticism)

Literatura i kinematograf, 1923 (criticism)

O teorii prozy, 1925 (criticism; Theory of Prose, 1990)

Udachi i porazheniia Maksima Gorkogo, 1926 (criticism)

Ikh nastoiashchee, 1927 (criticism)

Motalka, knizhka ne dlia kinematografov, 1927 (criticism)

Piat chelovek znakomykh, 1927 (criticism)

Tekhnika pisatelskogo remesla, 1927 (criticism)

Gamburgskii sche, 1928 (criticism)

Material i stil v romane Lva Tolstogo “Voina i mir,” 1928 (criticism)

Matvei Komarov, zhitel goroda Moskvy, 1929 (biography)

Room, zhizn i rabota, 1929 (biography)

Gornaia Gruziia: Pshaviia, Khevsuretiia, Mukheviia, 1930 (travel sketch)

Podenshchina, 1930 (criticism)

Poiski optimizma, 1931 (criticism)

Kak pisat stsenarii, 1931 (criticism)

Chulkov i Levshin, 1933 (criticism)

Zametki o proze Pushkina, 1937 (criticism)

Dnevnik, 1939 (criticism)

O Maiakovskom, 1940 (biography; Mayakovsky and His Circle, 1972)

Vstrechi, 1944 (journalism)

Zametki o proze russkikh klassikov, 1953 (criticism)

Za i protiv: Zametki o Dostoevskom, 1957 (criticism)

Khudozhestvennaia proza: Razmyshleniia i razbory, 1959 (criticism)

Lev Tolstoi, 1963 (biography; Lev Tolstoy, 1978)

Zhili-byli, 1964 (memoir)

Za sorok let: Stati o kino, 1965 (criticism)

Staroe i novoe, 1966 (criticism)

Povesti o proze: Razmyshleniia i razbory, 1966 (criticism)

Tetiva: O neskhodstve skhodnogo, 1970 (criticism)

Eizenshtein, 1973 (biography)

Energiia zabliuzhdeniia: Kniga o siuzhete, 1981 (criticism)

Za 60 let, 1985 (criticism)

Long Fiction:

Sentimentalnoe puteshestvie: Vospominaniia, 1917–1922, 1923 (A Sentimental Journey: Memoirs, 1917–1922, 1970)

Zoo: Ili, Pisma ne o liubvi, 1923 (Zoo: Or, Letters Not About Love, 1971)

Tretia fabrika, 1926 (Third Factory, 1977)

Kratkaia no dostovernaia povest o dvorianine Bolotove, 1930

Zhitie arkhiereiskogo sluzhi, 1931

Kapitan Fedotov, 1936

Marko Polo, 1936

Povest o khudozhnike Fedotove, 1955

Short Fiction:

Minin i Pozharskii, 1940

O masterakh starinnykh, 1714–1812, 1951

Istoricheskie povesti i rasskazy, 1958


Bukhta smerti, 1926

Krylia kholopa, 1926

Po zakonu, 1926

Predatel, 1926 (with Lev Nikulin)

Prostitutka, 1927

Schastlivye cherepki, 1927 (libretto)

Tretia meshchanskaia, 1927 (with Abram Room)

Dva bronevika, 1928

Dom na trubnoi, 1928 (with others)

Ivan da Maria, 1928 (with Blanche Altshuler and V. Sirokov)

Kazaki, 1928 (with Vladimir Barskii)

Kapitanskaia dochka, 1928

Ledianoi dom, 1928 (with Georgiy Grebner and Boris Leonidov)

Ovod, 1928 (with Konstantin Marzhanov)

Ukhaby, 1928

Poslednii attraktsion, 1929

Turksib, 1929 (with Aleksandr Macheret, E. Aron, and V. Turin)

Ochen prosto, 1931

Mertvyi dom, 1932

Gorizont, 1933

Zhit, 1933

Zolotye ruki, 1933

Minin i Pozharskii, 1939

Alisher Navoi, 1947

Dalekaia nevesta, 1948 (with E. Pomeshchikov and N. Rozhkov)

Chuk i Gek, 1953

Dokhunda, 1957

Kazaki, 1961

Children’s/Young Adult Literature:

Puteshestvie v stranu kino, 1926

Nandu II, 1928

Turksib, 1930

Marko Polo, razvedchik, 1931

Skazka o teniakh, 1931

Zhizn khudozhnika Fedotova, 1936

Rasskaz o Pushkine, 1937


Sobranie sochinenii, 1973–1974 (3 volumes)

Izbrannoe v dvukh tomakh, 1983


Because of the energy, imagination, and versatility manifested in his numerous writings, Viktor Borisovich Shklovsky (SHKLAWF-skee) won recognition as the most durable and possibly the most prominent critic and writer affiliated with the Russian Formalist movement. His father was a mathematics teacher of Jewish ancestry, and his mother was of Latvian descent; he was born in St. Petersburg on January 24, 1893, and was raised in a household which included an older half brother and a sister. Apparently even during his adolescent years, Shklovsky had a proclivity for literary disputation. He published a short article in 1908, and while he was enrolled at the University of St. Petersburg in 1913, problems of critical theory evidently interested him more than academic matters. In 1914, an important essay, Resurrection of the Word, appeared, which presented his assessment of the challenging new ideas advanced by Russian Futurist writers. In order to promote innovative approaches to art and literary style, he took a leading part in the formation of Opoyaz, a society for the study of poetic language.{$I[AN]9810000761}{$I[A]Shklovsky, Viktor}{$I[geo]RUSSIA;Shklovsky, Viktor}{$I[tim]1893;Shklovsky, Viktor}

During World War I Shklovsky enlisted in the army and served with Russian forces stationed in Galicia and Ukraine. For a time he also was employed in the capital as an instructor for armored car personnel. His political leanings led to complications after the Russian Revolution of 1917. In connection with his official duties, he spent time on the Austrian front and also in Iran; while in Petrograd, he took part in a plot to restore parliamentary government at the expense of the Bolshevik regime. Afterward, he escaped to Kiev, and upon his return he was exonerated of political charges.

In Petrograd, Shklovsky married Vasilisa Georgievna Kordi, who became the mother of his two children, Varvara and Nikita. Shklovsky assisted young writers, such as the Serapion brothers, and he became a member of Lef, an association of Futurist and Formalist authors. Once more to avoid arrest on political grounds, he emigrated and remained abroad for more than a year, first in Finland and then in Germany. In the autumn of 1923, under the terms of a general amnesty, he returned to his native country and settled in Moscow.

Highly idiosyncratic views of his personal travails during this period were presented in semiautobiographical works such as A Sentimental Journey, Zoo, and Third Factory, which have the appearance of novels but, because of their unusual patterns of narration and odd ways of designating the author’s point of view, elude precise classification. Shklovsky’s penchant for experimentation also was demonstrated in curious traits, such as the frequent use of one-sentence paragraphs. In places he employed an erratic mixture of high-sounding phrases and colloquial expressions.

In such major theoretical efforts as Theory of Prose, Shklovsky formulated distinctions which posed the criteria that he thought were important for literary analysis. Contending that fictional works should be understood in terms of form rather than content, he maintained that devices such as obstruction, parallelism, retardation, and contact were the essential elements of narrative writing. In arguing that the sum total of such means determined the nature and quality of literary works, Shklovsky posited an approach to criticism that, although supported by many examples, struck some readers as extreme and was viewed by others as a bold and innovative method. The notion of estrangement (ostranenie), which later was cited by many others in a variety of contexts, was probably the most influential of the conceptions that Shklovsky developed.

A sizable part of Shklovsky’s writing had to do with the cinema, and he wrote many screenplays; his views about film were presented in theoretical works and biographical studies. Among the exemplars he cited as vital in the development of modern cultural ideas was Sergei Eisenstein, the director whose seemingly plotless techniques in some ways resembled Shklovsky’s prose conceptions. At times he discussed other literary figures, both major and relatively little known, in the course of critical investigations that were meant to illustrate the interdependence of genres. Works dealing with historical figures were followed by fictional narratives that were set in past centuries.

During periods when, under Soviet premier Joseph Stalin, ideological constraints imposed severe limitations on the nature and scope of creative activity, Shklovsky turned to outwardly more innocuous forms of writing. In a 1930 newspaper article he renounced his earlier views in an effort to mollify critics in official circles. Nevertheless, when subsequently his memoir Mayakovsky and His Circle appeared, Shklovsky was taken to task for his positive stance toward Futurism. Concerns of a different sort also affected his life; during World War II, he served as a correspondent and furnished reports from areas where fighting had taken place. In February, 1945, his son Nikita was killed in action. Some time later, Shklovsky was divorced from his wife and was married to Serafima Gustavovna Narbut.

Although further difficulties with his literary efforts arose during the later years of Stalin’s government, Shklovsky subsequently was honored as an important Soviet author. His biographical study Lev Tolstoi, which presented an extensive though somewhat uneven interpretation of the great writer, was well received. He was awarded the State Prize of the Soviet Union for his work on Sergei Eisenstein. The continuing vitality of Formalist conceptions in his thought was demonstrated in Tetiva, where he enlarged upon his earlier views to set forth a balanced version of his theories. Even during the last years of his life, further works as well as new editions of his writings appeared. At the time of Shklovsky’s death, at the age of ninety-one, he was generally regarded as one of the most significant literary theorists of the twentieth century.

BibliographyAvins, Carol. “Emigration and Metaphor: Viktor Shklovsky, Zoo: Or, Letters Not About Love (1923).” In Border Crossings: The West and Russian Identity in Soviet Literature, 1917-1934. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1983. Historical and critical study; contains index and bibliography.Crawford, Lawrence. “Viktor Shklovskii: Différance in Defamiliarization.” Comparative Literature 36 (1984). One of the most celebrated tenets of Shklovsky’s theories is considered.Jackson, Robert Louis, and Stephen Rudy, eds. Russian Formalism, a Retrospective Glance: A Festschrift in Honor of Victor Erlich. New Haven, Conn.: Yale Center for International and Area Studies, 1985. Shklovsky’s position in relation to that of other writers is discussed in several of the contributions.Lary, N. M. Dostoevsky and Soviet Film: Visions of Demonic Realism. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1986. The relationship among fiction, criticism, and film in some of Shklovsky’s endeavors is discussed in the first part of this work.Ognev, Vladimir. “Viktor Shklovskii Teaches Us to Think.” Soviet Studies in Literature 20, no. 1 (1983/1984). Sympathetic comments by a Soviet observer.Riccomini, Donald R. “Defamiliarization, Reflexive Reference, and Modernism.” Bucknell Review 25, no. 2 (1980). One of the most celebrated tenets of Shklovsky’s theories is considered.Smart, Robert Augustin. “Viktor Shklovsky and Sentimental Journey.” In The Nonfiction Novel. Lanham, Md.: University Press of America, 1985. The unusual hybrid genre developed in Shklovsky’s autobiographical novels is dealt with from the standpoint of this well-known work.Steiner, Peter. Russian Formalism: A Metapoetics. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1984. Deals with theoretical issues.
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