Although little studied in the West, Nikolai Semenovich Leskov (1831-95) is accorded a place among major nineteenth-century writers in his native Russia. Irmhild Christina Sperrle's The Organic Worldview of Nikolai Leskov draws on previously unavailable archival and primary sources to offer English-speaking readers the opportunity to appreciate the work of this neglected author. Leskov remarked to his contemporary Anatolii Faresov, ""People talk about my 'language,' about its colorfulness and its national traits; about the richness of my plots, about my condensed way of writing, about 'similarity' and so on, but they do not notice the most important thing."" It is this ""most important thing,"" Leskov's consistent thematic adherence to an ""organic"" philosophical model, that Sperrle traces and elaborates here. Focusing on movement and transformation in ""an organic manner"" - a manner in which death and rebirth alternate and condition each other - Sperrle develops Leskov's notion of organicity and explores his relationship to the organic tradition in philosophy and literature. Her reading of key texts among his more than five hundred works entails a close look at Leskov's ideas about the Divine as freedom of belief, about truth as a continual renewal of previously held theories, and about death in both a physical and a spiritual sense. She examines Leskov's vexed relation to Tolstoyan ideas and shows how the notion of heresy - as a questioning rather than rejection of authority - is a crucial element in his worldview and his work.
IRMHILD CHRISTINA SPERRLE teaches in the modern language department at Pace University. She co-authored a bibliography of Nikolai Leskov's literature that was published in Russia and is also the editor of the Pocket Russian-English, English-Russian Dictionary (Random House, 2000).
Leskov's Organic Worldview I. Organicity: Life and the Stomach II. The Pact with the Devil III. The Overcoming of Death IV. Leskov's Message of Love V. ""Separate, But Merged"" Leskov, Tolstoy, and the Three Questions The Cathedral Folk and (Dis)respect for Authority I. The Uses of the Past Leskov's Treatment of Sources II. Cathedral Folk-the History of a Chronicle III. A Perspective on Perspectives IV. Leskov's Theology. The Dead vs. the Living Word V. Renewal and Growth The Rabbit Carriage or the Madness of a Perfect World I. A ""Lively"" Tale II. Look Who's Talking III. ""Digested"" vs. ""Undigested"" Knowledge IV. The Clan of the Pereguds V. The Chicken and the Egg VI. The Hatching of the Egg VII. A Word Is a Word