Exotic Visitor: Claude McKay in the Soviet Union
- УДК / UDK: 82(091)
- Author: Olga Yu. Panova
- About the author:
Olga Yu. Panova (Doctor Hab. in Philology, Professor, Lomonosov Moscow State University; Lead research fellow, A.M. Gorky Institute of World Literature, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow)
The paper concentrates on Claude McKay’s Soviet contacts, editions and his image in the Soviet literary criticism of the 1920s. Claude McKay arrived in Petrograd in 1922 as a delegate to the Fourth Congress of the Communist International and spent about 6 months in the USSR. His visit aroused interest in his poetry; two of his books – a collection of short stories Trial by Lynching (1924) and Negroes in America (1923) – were published for the first time in the USSR in Russian, their American editions haven’t appeared before 1970s. Claude McKay had vast contacts with Soviet leaders, writers, poets, artists, theater managers. His poems, essays and memoirs about his “Russian pilgrimage” help to understand both his interest in communism and his disappointment in the leftist movement and stalinism. McKay’s literary reputation in the Soviet Union underwent a change during the 1920s due to his evolution as a writer and his contacts with Leon Trotsky and Max Eastman. First he was introduced as a revolutionary American Negro author writing about Black proletariat, and a “friend of the Soviet Union”; however in late 1920s when his novels Home to Harlem and Banjo were published in Russia, critics stigmatized McKay as a “Bohemian lumpen-intellectual” and a petty bourgeois Black nationalist. McKay failed to become a symbol of the oppressed American Black proletariat; in the 1930s his poems are published very rarely, his name practically disappears off the Soviet literary criticism. The paper uses publications of American and Soviet press of the 1920s and archived documents.
- Keywords: Claude McKay, American literary history, African American literature, Soviet-American literary connections, politics of literature, Comintern, Negroes in America, travelogue, memoirs, literary reputation, archived materials.
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