[xmca] Another Textological Question

From: David Kellogg <vaughndogblack who-is-at yahoo.com>
Date: Sun Apr 29 2007 - 16:38:47 PDT

Dear Anton:
  I agree that Chukovsky was an anti-anti-Semite in later life, particularly after his Jewish son-in-law was murdered by the GPU. I disagree that this precludes his having been anti-Semitic in earlier days.
  Of course I agree that I am immature, absurd, ridiculous, etc. So perhaps we'd better stick to the strictly textological approach.
  There's plenty to occupy us there! First of all, according to the biographical references in the Yale edition of Chukovsky's diary (p.586), "Koma" is the father, and not the son. But the same page tells us that Ivanov pere died in 1963, which means that he could not have given a copy of Vygotsky's book to Chukovsky in 1965, as the diary says on p. 507. So it looks like you are right and the biographical refs are wrong.
  Secondly, I am not at all sure what to make of Chukovsky's penchant for recounting the anti-Semitic comments of his peers in his diary. The diary itself does not seem sure what to make of it. Sometimes, Chukovsky is revolted, e.g.
  On p. 23 (of the 2005 Yale edition of his Diary) Chukovsky writes:
  "Called on Rozanov. Disgusting impression <...> He complained that the Yids were tormenting his children at school. The interesting thing is how: by being likable!
  "Is Rosenblum a Jew?" the children ask.
  'Oh, he' so nice!'
  'And Nabokov?'
  'No, Nabokov is Russian.'
  'The swine!'
  That's what makes the Jews so awful."
  This is in 1912, and yes, Nabokov is the famous writer, then a schoolboy classmate of Chukovsky's kids.
   On the other hand, he quotes, apparently approvingly, Mayakovsky's anti-Semitic jokes on p. 90 (the year is 1921):
  "A Jew traveling by train and hearing that a new locomotive was bieng put on asked 'How much did they get for the old one?' Another Jew praised a woman by saying she had a twenty-five carat nose. And a third Jew saw the Tsar and bowed, and when the Tsar asked 'How did you recognize me?' he answered, 'you look just like the ruble.'"
  He solidarizes with Bedny's anti-Semitic remarks about the opposition on p. 215, and he expresses disgust for the physical appearance of Trotsky, Zinoviev and even some revulsion for Kamenev, all well known as Jews.
  On p. 173 he tells three consecutive anecdotes (using his own voice) about the miserliness of Shklovsky (a Jew), and on p. 21l quotes his 'good friend' Zoschenko's account of a drinking party:
  "The other people there were Shkovsky, Tynanov, and Eikhenbaum--all Jews; I was the only member of hte Orthodox church. No, that's wrong: Vsevolod Ivanov was there too."
  ( Vsevolod Ivanov is V.V. Ivanov pere.)
  I don't think it is outlandish (absurd, ridiculous, immature) to claim that Chukovsky saw Vygotsky as an enemy. He writes that it was not just pedagogues but the whole of the state establishment, with which Vygotsky was then allied, which persecuted his children's books (p. 215, and p 477).
  But it's interesting that when he meets David Vygotsky (on p. 263) he doesn't mention LSV at all, and that LSV only appears in the short reference to "Psychology of Art". It might well be that Chukovsky recognized LSV's criticism of "Crocodile" as pro forma.
  Thirdly--am I right about Belyayev's comment on p. 87? Has Hingley got his "smysl" and "zenachenie" switched around?
  David Kellogg
  Seoul National University of Education

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Received on Sun Apr 29 17:41 PDT 2007

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