The ideal of perfect manliness
is prepared by
the style and the practical demands of our era. Everything has
become heavier and more enormous, and therefore man must
also be harder, for man must be harder than everything on earth
and must be to the earth as a diamond to glass. - Osip Mandel-
starn, "On the Nature of the Word"
Lelya Goncharova: Woman must now think like a man. The
Revolution. Male scores are being settled. - Yuri Olesha, A List
of Assets
To many readers familiar with Russian literature, the title of this study,
Men without Women,
will probably appear an unsuitable import from a
vastly different literary tradition.! Hemingway's collection by the same
name is only one of his many works that center on exclusively male ex-
perience; his masculine focus was hardly at odds with American literary
history, which, thanks to the topos of the Western frontier, consists of
numerous novels and stories devoted to the lives of men in the absence
of women.2 Such is not the case with Russian literature: despite the famil-
iar figures of the superfluous man and the underground man, women
loom large over the Russian literary tradition. From Pushkin's Tatyana
to Chekhov's three Prokhorov sisters, Russian literature of the nine-
teenth century is populated by unforgettable female characters. Placed
on the imposing pedestal of what Barbara Heldt terms "terrible per-
fection," many of these strong heroines put their male counterparts to
shame.3 Whether or not one accepts Heldt's contention that such "under-
described" female characters are "literarily the least interesting" (Heldt
is impossible to imagine the classics of Russian literature without
In the fiction and poetry that follows the revolution, continuity with
any tradition cannot be taken for granted. This is not to say that the lit-
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