Physical and Spatial Anomalies as a Reflection of Total Decay (Pavel Salzman’s Puppies)


  • Petr Kazarnovsky



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.

Author Biography

Petr Kazarnovsky

PhD Candidate, University of Geneva; Russian Language and Literature Teacher, School 29.

24, rue du Général-Dufour, 1211, Geneva, Switzerland.

34, Vasilyevsky Island, Maliy Ave. 199178, St Petersburg, Russia.


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How to Cite

Kazarnovsky, P. (2019). Physical and Spatial Anomalies as a Reflection of Total Decay (Pavel Salzman’s Puppies). Quaestio Rossica, 7(1), 203–221.



Problema voluminis