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Synopsis

“Myths do not flow through the pipes of history,” writes Viktor Shklovsky, “they change and splinter, they contrast and refute one another. The similar turns out to be dissimilar.” Published in Moscow in 1970 and appearing in English translation for the first time, Bowstring is a seminal work, in which Shklovsky redefines estrangement (ostranenie) as a device of the literary comparatist—the “person out of place,” who has turned up in a period where he does not belong and who must search for meaning with a strained sensibility. As Shklovsky experiments with different genres, employing a technique of textual montage, he mixes autobiography, biography, memoir, history, and literary criticism in a book that boldly refutes mechanical repetition, mediocrity, and cultural parochialism in the name of art that dares to be different and innovative. Bowstring is a brilliant and provocative book that spares no one in its unapologetic project to free art from conventionality.

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