Reader's Encyclopedia of Eastern European Literature

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9780062700070: Reader's Encyclopedia of Eastern European Literature

First edition. With a thorough index. xvi, 605 pages. cloth-backed boards, dust jacket.. thick tall 8vo..

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From Booklist:

This scholarly work will be a disappointment to some because it does not include Russian literature. The preface explains that, for inclusion, authors must have written in a language belonging to one of the peoples who lived under the yoke of one or more of the four great empires--Austrian, Prussian, Ottoman, or Russian. Russian and Turkish authors are thereby eliminated, as are the small minority who chose to write in a western European language, as did the Pole we know as Joseph Conrad.

Included are writers from about 20 countries (22 languages, including Yiddish), ranging from north to south (from Estonia to Greece) and west to east (from Prussia--the Wends and Sorbs--to Georgia and Armenia). The bulk of the work is arranged by author, with entries from one-quarter to a full page or more. These give biographical data and criticism of the author's work. All titles are given in the original language with an English translation in parentheses and the publication date. It is not clear whether the English translation is a literal one or if it is the title under which the book was published in English, which sometimes can be quite different. Each entry is followed by a list of published English translations (which sometimes don't correspond to any titles mentioned in the essay) with their publication dates and by critical material about the author written in English, French, German, or Italian. In his preface the editor states that "no entry was permitted to have more than three works in its registration of translations" and also that the "further reading" was also limited to three critical works.

The remainder of the book provides a variety of information. First is a section entitled "Anonymous, Collective and Oral-Traditon Texts," covering editions and translations of the Bible in various languages (Albanian to Ukrainian); some lives of saints; oral and epic poetry; chronicles; and so on. The final portion of the book consists of "Brief Histories of East European Literatures" from Albanian to Yiddish. These are three or four pages each. If an author is mentioned in these histories and is also in the biographical section of the book, his or her name is in all caps.

There are three indexes: authors, with birth and death dates, by language (Albanian to Yiddish); anonymous or nonauthored early works (the Bible, chronicles, etc.); and a general index of names and topics, including literary journals mentioned in the text.

The reference value of this work is considerable. While it covers a few well-known writers such as Nikos Kazantzakis and the Czech playwright V{ }aclav Havel, it brings to the West a wealth of biographical and literary data about hundreds of East European writers of this and earlier centuries with whom most Americans are not familiar. The editor states that the choice of which authors to be included, as well as the length or brevity of each entry, "was left entirely up to the contributors" (with, however, some reasonable provisos). Some of his 24 contributors, most of whom are British, "have chosen longer articles on fewer writers, some briefer articles on more writers." There is, therefore, little correlation between length of article and literary importance of the author.

Despite these strictures, the book is a massive collection on little-known writers, and should certainly be in every university library and in central public libraries.

From Library Journal:

Originally published under the title The Everyman Companion to East European Literature, this reference covers writers who lived or live in European countries that were oppressed--namely, those countries that are bordered by Russia on the east and Italy, Austria, and Germany on the west. The text is divided into an alphabetical listing, a category listing, and a short overview of the history of each literature. The major section is arranged alphabetically by author, with each entry ranging from 130 to 300 words. The essays include both biographical and bibliographical information and cover novelists, playwrights, and poets from the 19th century to the present day. Notable entries include Havel and Kundera, but most of the authors listed here are lesser known, making this introductory source an extremely useful starting point. Recommended for all academic and larger public libraries.
-Neal Wyatt, Randolph-Macon Coll., Ashland, Va.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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