Physical and Spatial Anomalies as a Reflection of Total Decay (Pavel Salzman’s Puppies)
Keywords:Pavel Saltzman; Russian avant-garde; 20th-century Russian literature; Civil War; phantasmagoria; Leningrad artists of the 1930s; Pavel Filonov
This article examines Puppies, a novel by Pavel Salzman. It took the writer fifty years to complete and encompasses the lifetime impressions of an artist and poet who was closely related to the avant-garde and had diverse interests in literature and the arts. This allowed the writer to create an unprecedented work about the Civil War, which engulfed a vast area of Russia at the time. The characters include two puppies, probably the most important plot components of the novel, which are forced to wander and undergo numerous ordeals: they become unwitting victims of an owl-man and an “iron boy”. These two characters, either combining various attributes of animal nature or radically altering their physical constitution, turn out to be capable of overcoming the border between life and death. Hence, they serve as “conductors” towards nonexistence for the simple-minded characters that reach for them. This turns Saltzman’s phantasmagorical work into a sinister fresco depicting all living things as doomed to a violent death or starvation. When working on his novel, Saltzman pays attention at multiple levels to various corporal distortions, including motor abilities and properties. In this regard, verbs and their derivatives require close analysis as their presence in the book seems overwhelming, thus emphasising the deformations to which life is subjected. The main message of the novel is the perplexity and terror caused by what is happening: devastation and hunger lead to everyone being eaten by everyone else.
Cervantes, M. de. (1961). Novella o besede sobak [The Dialogue of the Dogs]. In Cervantes, M. de. Sobranie sochinenii v 5 t. Moscow, Pravda. Vol. 4, pp. 21–91.
Filonov, P. N. (2006). Teoriya analiticheskogo iskusstva. Kanon i zakon [A History of Analytical Art. The Canon and the Law]. In Filonov, P. N. Khudozhnik. Issledovatel’. Uchitel’. Zhivopis’. Grafika v 2 t. / ed. by D. Boult, N. Misler, A. Sarab’yanov. Moscow, Agei Tomesh, Gosudarstvennyi Russkii muzei, Gosudarstvennaya Tret’yakovskaya galereya. Vol. 1, pp. 78–83.
Hoffmann, E. T. A. (1992). Izvestie o poslednikh sud’bakh sobaki Bergantsy [A Report on the Latest Adventures of the Dog Berganza]. In Hoffmann, E. T. A. Pesochnyi chelovek. Povesti. Moscow, Tekst, pp. 65–114.
Kukui, I. (2012). Tselesoobraznost’ ada. O knige Pavla Zal’tsmana “Shchenki” [The Expediency of Hell. On Pavel Saltzman’s Puppies] / hosted by D. Volchek. In Radio “Liberty”. August 15. URL: https://www.svoboda.org/a/24678335.html (mode of access: 25.08.2018).
Mandelstam, O. (1990). Egipetskaya marka [Egyptian Stamp]. In Mandelstam, O. Sochineniya v 2 t. Moscow, Khudozhestvennaya literatura. Vol. 2, pp. 59‒87.
Matyushin, M. (1979). Tvorchestvo Pavla Filonova [Works by Pavel Filonov]. In Kovtun, E. F. (Ed.). Ezhegodnik rukopisnogo otdela Pushkinskogo Doma na 1977. Leningrad, Nauka, pp. 232–235.
Saltzman, P. Ya. (2012). Shchenki. Proza 1930–50-kh godov [Puppies. Prose, 1930s–1950s]. Moscow, Vodolei. 432 p.
Saltzman, P. Ya. (2017). Oskolki razbitogo vdrebezgi. Dnevniki i vospominaniya 1925–1955 [Pieces of the Smashed. Diaries and Memoirs 1925–1955]. Moscow, Vodolei. 448 p.
Sergeev, K. V. (2004). “Biologicheskoe prostranstvo” esteticheskogo ob"ekta: Pavel Filonov i “biologiya razvitiya” [The “Biological Space” of an Aesthetic Object: Pavel Filonov and the “Biology of Development”]. In Kul’tura i prostranstvo. Slavyanskii mir. Moscow, Logos, pp. 111–127.
Sovremennyi slovar’ inostrannykh slov [Contemporary Dictionary of Foreign Words]. (1993). Moscow, Russkii yazyk. 740 p.
Yur’ev, O. (2013). Odnoklassniki: pochti povest’ o poslednem pokolenii russkogo modernizma (Vsevolod Petrov i Pavel Zal’tsman) [Classmates: An Almost Story of the Last Generation of the Russian Modernism (Vsevolod Petrov and Pavel Saltzman)]. In Novyi mir. No. 6. URL: http://www.nm1925.ru/Archive/Journal6_2013_6/Content/Publication6_
879/Default.aspx (mode of access: 26.08.2018).
Zusmanovich, N. (2008). Pavel Zal’tsman: ot Pu Sun Lina k Daniilu Kharmsu – personazhi i obrazy [Pavel Saltzman: From Pu Songling to Daniil Kharms – Characters and Images]. In Loshchilov, I. (Ed.). Interpretatsiya i avangard : Mezhvuzovskii sbornik nauchnykh trudov. Novosibirsk, Izdatel’stvo Novosibirskogo gosudarstvennogo pedagogicheskogo universiteta, pp. 114–128. URL: http://pavelSaltzman.org/bibliography/critics/natalia-zusmanovich (mode of access: 26.08.2018).