For 70 years, Soviet culture's pervasive censorship, homophobia and criminalization made taboo any mention of homosexuality or sex between men. Even during the last decade, until the repeal of Russia's Article 121 in 1993, studying gay topics was potentially dangerous. The invisibility of gay-themed writings has been so great that, if asked where to look for gay themes in Russian literature, most non-specialists today would probably exhaust their knowledge by pointing to Mikhail Kuzmin, the openly gay poet of the early 20th century and author of the first gay novel in Russian, Wings. However, censorship and criminalization do not invisibility make, forever...
OUT OF THE BLUE: RUSSIA'S HIDDEN GAY LITERATURE-AN ANTHOLOGY Gay Sunshine Press) shatters the invisibility barrier. Edited by Professor Kevin Moss of Middlebury College, Vermont, OUT OF THE BLUE is a pioneering collection of literature on gay themes by 30 writers-from the early 19th century to the post-glasnost "New Russia"- superbly rendered into English by 17 translators. The introduction, by Professor Simon Karlinsky, gives historical background from the 10th century on, as well as an in-depth discussion of 19th and 20th century gay writing. This essay helps the reader understand just why gay writers and themes became so widely accepted during the last pre-Revolution decade and why they were so quickly rejected again after the Revolution of 1917.
OUT OF THE BLUE is divided chronologically into four sections. The divisions correspond roughly to traditional literary periods, but more importantly, they also parallel political changes that affected gay life as well as changes in the ways gay Russians conceived of themselves.
Part One: Gay Themes in Golden Age Literature (19th century) includes several of its most famous authors (Pushkin, Tolstoy, etc.). Not surprisingly, many of the materials in this section have been marginalized in various ways, or the selections themselves marginalize homosexuality by setting it in another culture or restricting it to a childhood phase.
Part Two: The First Flowering of Gay Culture, demonstrates the explosion of gay literature in the Silver Age--early 20th century (Kuzmin, Esenin, Klyuev, etc.). The flowering of gay culture at the beginning of the 20th century was to be short-lived, however. In 1933, homosexuality was criminalized anew under Stalin. Given the strict censorship, it is not surprising that no gay-themed works were published in Russia until glasnost relaxed the controls. Instead, homosexuality became one of the many themes banished to under- ground writing.
Part Three: Hidden from View, offers a glimpse into the lives and writings of six authors who, from the 1920's to the 1980's, found themselves relegated to underground or emigre writing (Kharitonov, Pereleshin, etc.).
Part Four: Gay Life Reborn, shows the post-Soviet proliferation of gay-themed materials, and is the most eclectic. In this section is a wealth of material from the first gay journals: stories, poems, letters, as well as gay-themed work by such prominent writers as Makanin and Aksyonov.
OUT OF THE BLUE provides a provocative look at the hidden side of Russian society. Perhaps what is most striking is that the emotional landscape covered in these writings is so familiar, running the full gamut from self-hatred to righteous anger, from passionate love to unrequited lust, from sentimental self-pity to camp wit. These selections show the range and richness of the gay experience for Russians over the past two centuries.
For the past 25 years, Gay Sunshine Press has been dedicated to bringing readers quality collections of gay writing in translation from other cultures and societies. OUT OF THE BLUE: RUSSIA'S HIDDEN GAY LITERATURE-AN ANTHOLOGY joins two Latin American gay anthologies (Now the Volcano, My Deep Dark Pain is Love), a medieval Arab anthology (The Delight of Hearts) and a recently released Japanese gay anthology (Partings at Dawn). An Israeli gay anthology and a collection of gay Buddhist writings are currently in progress.
More info on OUT OF THE BLUE at Gay Sunshine Press! Includes one of the letters to the editor of Tema!
An online review in Hungarian at Mások!
*The Russian for "gay" is "goluboy" -- light blue.
see WHY ARE THESE PAGES BLUE?
This book can be ordered directly by mail from Gay Sunshine Press, P.O. Box 410690, San Francisco, CA 94141 for $22.95 postpaid. You should also be able to find it at your local gay bookstore, and it can be ordered through A Different Light or Glad Day.
Available to bookstores nationwide from Gay Sunshine's distributors: Bookpeople, Koen, Bookazine and Ingram.