Viktor Shklovsky for Kids

Seminal Russian formalist critic Viktor Shklovsky has been back in the limelight as of late due to a slew of translations by Shushan Avagyan published and forthcoming from Dalkey Archive, including Bowstring: On the Dissimilarity of the Similar and Energy of Delusion, a pair of works of literary theory, as well as the more essayistic/historical A Hunt for Optimism and Shklovsky: Witness to an Era by Serena Vitale.

Anyone who has read or merely tried to read Shklovsky knows how challenging and cryptic his writing can be. This makes it almost impossible for small children to appreciate his work. Luckily though, this multifaceted and, let’s face it, politically constrained man of great intellectual and poetic gifts was able to branch out and hit even this target audience by writing screenplays for animated films.

Most impressive of all is the fact that these films are pretty amazing, give or take a certain amount of propaganda. There is, for example, 1963’s The Three Fat Men (in Russian only) based on the fairy tale by Yury Olesha. Four years later he wrote The Golden Rooster, after Pushkin (with shaky English subtitles).

According to the site Shklovsky also wrote a Three Bears during the height of the Terror in 1937 by director Maria Benderskaya (Interestingly, all the animated films Shklovsky wrote were directed by women.) Benderskaya also directed the fascinating if at times over the top propagandistic early Soviet puppet film The Adventures of the little Chinese (1928). It’s worth seeing for the puppetry and for the way two small Chinese children are able to jump in a spare blimp and pilot it to the Soviet Union, something which, post 9/11 (and, I suppose, post 1991) is clearly no longer possible.

For an excerpt from Shklovsky’s Bowstring published on Asymptote click here (Not recommended for children).

Photo – 1) Three Fat Men/©, 2) The Golden Rooster

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Categories: Books on Film, Writers


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