Illuminating a Cultural Mood

Illuminating a Cultural Mood

On the first page of his introduction, Victor Erlich refers to Irving Howe’s “still resonant” essay “The Idea of the Modern.” It was Howe, many years ago, who suggested to Erlich that he was the right man to unravel the fierce tangle of literary modernism and political radicalism that characterized the decade and a half after the Bolshevik revolution in Russia. It will come as no surprise to readers of Dissent that Howe’s editorial judgment was sound. Neither will it surprise the many students of Russian literature who have learned from Erlich directly, at Yale, or indirectly, from his scholarship and especially his groundbreaking book on Russian Formalism. His book is the graceful product of a lifetime steeped in Russian culture: penetrating and judicious, full of thoughtful assessments of complicated writers in a turbulent time. Thanks to his clear prose and his gift for setting ideas and events in context, Erlich has written a book

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