It’s difficult to be Klejn. An Autobiography in monologues and dialogues
Nestor-Istoriya, St. Petesrburg, 2010, in Russian
By Leo S. Klejn
This book, of an impressive size (promised for spring 2009 by Nestor-Istoriya, St. Petersburg), was written by Leo S. Klejn, the archaeologist, anthropologist ans philologist, in his declining years, on the basis of recollections, letters and interviews. A considerable part of the book consists of vivid dialogues and correspondence and this lends it the character of a documentary. The author, who worked at well-known universities around the world sets his autobiography within the context of surrounding national and international events. He portrays the people whose paths crossed his, including leading figures of domestic and international scholarship and prominent figures of culture. The narrative is interspersed with the author’s own poetry (revealing a previously hidden side of his abilities).
The course of the author’s life has been dramatic as were the event through which he has lived. He has been at the front in the war, on archaeological expeditions, in prison and on international congresses, (in Russia, Western Europe and in America). So in many places the book reads as a romance with a dashingly twisted plot. The Author’s views often radically diverged from the views of the establishment – as indeed they still do. This is why many chapters of the book have something of a polemical tone.
The author’s evaluations inevitably bear a subjective character: as such, they run the risk of offending those mentioned, and they will certainly meet with objections. Yet these evaluations have not emerged from a vacuum; they are the products of personal experience, not not infrequently bitter.
The proud title came about by chance. Long ago the author entitled one of his reviews (of an English collection) It’s difficult to be a God. In this he compared the contributors of the collection to the heroes of Strugatskys’ romance of the same name. As it was the custom among archaeologists to poke fun at Klejn’s opinion of himself, in Moscow the joke began that Klejn had published his autobiography and entitled it It’s difficult to be a God. Having corrected this witticism in his own manner Klejn entitled his memoirs, i. e. his real autobiography, It’s difficult to be Klejn. The title reflects the fact that his life was really not at all easy, for which he blames, first and foremost, himself (but, indeed, he did not look for an easy life).
The book is illustrated with photographs, and supplied with a bibliography and indices.
Autobiography in monologues and dialogues
Part I. Childhood and youth
Part II. Entering scholarship and the cultural capital
Part III. Archaeologist at the University
Part IV. Overcoming borders
Part V. Temptations
Part VI. Ordeal
Part VII. New horizons
Part VII. Summation
List of illustrations
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