English-speaking readers can now enjoy a major Russian novel that appeared 90 years ago – for the first time. In June 2018 Look Multimedia published a new full English translation of the Soviet/Russian writer and critic Yuri Tynianov’s 1929 novel Death of the Vazir Mukhtar (Smert’ Vazir-Mukhtara in Russian).
Death of the Vazir-Mukhtar is one of the greatest novels produced by the cultural explosion of the early Soviet period. Using Tynianov’s extensive research in the St Petersburg archives, it tells the story of the last year in the life of Alexander Griboyedov (1795–1829), a playwright and diplomat in the era of Alexander Pushkin and Tsar Nicholas I. Griboyedov’s fate is clear from the title, but on this simple arc Tynianov hangs a rich, multi-layered exploration of Griboyedov’s interior life, Russian society and uneasy diplomatic relationship between Russia and Persia. Allusions, metaphors and meditations mix with dreams, dinner parties, affairs and negotiations to create a whirling, immersive experience. Tynianov uses the techniques he developed as a leader of the Formalist school of criticism to make his story vivid, unexpected and forward driving.