Marat Grinberg [Russian, 2006–]

I am to be read not from left to right, but in Jewish: from right to left: The Poetics of Boris Slutsky

By Anna Mann
The Poetics of Boris Slutsky

Boris Slutsky (1919–1986) is a major figure of Russian poetry of the second half of the twentieth century, but his work has remained largely unexplored. The first schol- arly monograph on Slutsky, Marat Grinberg’s book is a lengthy, detailed study of his poetic thought. Professor Grinberg makes a strong argument that Jewish culture is at the heart of Slutsky’s poetics, and that Slutsky offers a version of Jewish poetics centered around several key terms: hermeneu- tics, translation, and transplantation. The book shows how Slutsky engages with biblical texts and their view of history, presenting his poetic project as a holy writ of his times, which daringly fuses biblical proof texts and stylistics with the language of late Russian modernism and Soviet newspeak. This engagement is exegetical and aimed toward the kind of commentary historically produced by Jews on scripture. Grin- berg argues that Slutsky’s work espouses a Jewish worldview, and thus that its significance as Jewish poetry is not limited to the themes of Jewish life or faith. In the words of Alice Nakhimovsky, a pioneer scholar of Russian-Jewish literature, Grinberg’s book “rescues a great poet from a numbing set of midcentury clichés. No longer a ‘war poet,’ or ‘Soviet diarist,’ or sometime Jew, Boris Slutsky emerges as he was in fact—a sometimes playful, sometimes anguished heir to Russian modernism, who read Jewish catastrophe through Jewish texts.”