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THE DARK AND RADIANT BAKHTIN. WARTIME NOTES
For Sergei Georgievich Bocharov (10 May 1929–6 March 2017)
Сергея Георгиевича Бочарова
As this forum was being prepared for press, we received news of the passing of Sergei Bocharov, in Moscow, at age 87. Associated with Moscow’s Institute of World Literature (IMLI) for almost half a century, Bocharov made his debut in 1963 with a monograph on Tolstoi’s War and Peace. Work on Pushkin followed (1974, 2002), along with a series of “chronotopic” essays on writers’ artistic worlds and the shape of Russian literature that have since become classics.
Bocharov’s significance for this forum, however, is the service that he—together with two other freshly-minted literary scholars, Vadim Kozhinov (1930-2001) and Georgii Gachev (1929-2008)—rendered in the late 1950s to Mikhail Bakhtin, then an ex-political exile and obscure professor of world literature at a teachers’ college, soon to be upgraded to a university, in the provincial town of Saransk. The three young scholars were admirers of Bakhtin’s 1929 Dostoevskii book and astonished to discover that its author was still alive. They made the first pilgrimage to Saransk. To champion a non-conformist thinker like Bakhtin was not without risk for this initial post-Stalinist academic generation. Bocharov became Bakhtin’s enabler, then mentee, then disciple, facilitating the rescue of unpublished manuscripts and, upon Bakhtin’s death in 1975, the publication of republication of stalled and delayed work. His guidance during the gargantuan labors on the Collected Works of Bakhtin (Sobranie sochinenii v semi tomakh, 1996-2012) continued up through his final illness.
The debt owned to Sergei Bocharov by all who work on, and with, Bakhtin is immense. We dedicate this forum on the dark wartime Bakhtin to his disciple and editor’s radiant memory.