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A HUNT FOR OPTIMISM



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Begun in 1929 under the title "New Prose" and drastically revised after Vladimir Mayakovsky's sudden death, A Hunt for Optimism (1931) circles obsessively around a single scene of interrogation in which a writer is subjected to a show trial for his unorthodoxy. Using multiple perspectives, fragments, and aphorisms, and bearing the vulnerability of both the Russian Jewry and the anti-Bolshevik intelligentsia—who had unwittingly become the "enemies of the people"Hunt satirizes Soviet censorship and the ineptitude of Soviet leaders with acerbic panache. Despite criticism at the time that it lacked unity and was too "variegated" to be called a purely "Shklovskian book," Hunt is stylistically unpredictable, experimentally bold, and unapologetically ironic—making it one of the finest books in Shklovsky's body of work.

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