Bowstring and Energy of Delusion

Nice article here on Viktor Shklovsky.

Shklovsky is a master of this kind of insightful but moony speculation, which begins life as taxonomy but finishes as myth. It is a skill that is conspicuously on display in both Bowstring and Energy of Delusion. Originally published in 1970 and 1981 respectively, these books were written at a time when the tenets of Russian formalism were just being superseded by the advent of new theoretical approaches like structuralism and post-structuralism. But these books are not the theoretical retrenchments one might expect; they are each surprisingly personal and experimental in form, works of uncommon density and craft that revel in the calculated pleasures of irony and delay, repetition and allegory. Both texts, but especially Bowstring, are just as much exercises in storytelling as they are clinical examinations of its laws.

Narrative, for Shklovsky, is not a way to communicate ideas, but a way to expose ideas to the contradictions that work on them from all sides, to “renew thought and disrupt the sclerosis of concepts,” as he puts it.


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