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Komiya M. The Autobiographical Myth in Ju.K. Olesha’s Novel Envy. Studia Litterarum, 2018, vol. 3, no 3, pp. 162–175. (In Russ.) DOI: 10.22455/2500-4247-2018-3-3-162-175

Author: Michiko Komiya
Information about the author:

Michiko Komiya, PhD in Philology, Research Fellow of Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, Saitama University, Shimo-okubo 255, Sakura-ku, 3388570, Saitama-shi, Japan.

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Received: November 01, 2017
Published: September 25, 2018
Issue: 2018 Vol. 3, №3
Department: Russian Literature
Pages: 162-175

UDK: 821.161.1
BBK: 83.3(2Рос=Рус)6
Keywords: Ju.K. Olesha, Envy, Kavalerov, manuscript, autobiography


This study reinterprets an autobiographical myth in Olesha’s novel Envy (1927). The novel’s main character Kavalerov has been traditionally interpreted as Olesha’s fictional double, Olesha’s own remark that Kavalerov’s poetic talent matches his own being a strong basis for such reinterpretation. However, upon closely studying the manuscript and exploring Kavelerov’s manuscripts, the essay argues that Kavalerov is not an autobiographical character. In writing and rewriting Envy, Olesha repeatedly changed Kavalerov’s characteristics, progressively showing him in the bad light. In fact, when Olesha began writing Envy, the main character was Ivan Babichev. At this stage of the novel’s composition, Kavalerov, merely a narrator, was described as a poetically talented man, a representative of intelligentsia who managed to survive and adapt himself to the post-revolutionary society. In other words, at the novel’s early stages, the character did share certain features with the author. However, Olesha later imbued Kavalerov’s character with negative features and made him an antagonist of Andrey Babichev, a favorite of the Soviet government. This rueful change paradoxically reinforced Kavalerov’s significance in the novel and he became its main protagonist. In his late manuscripts of the novel, Olesha presented even Kavalerov’s poetic talent in the negative light. The novel’s final version shows Kavalerov’s talent uncultivated because of his idleness: no one recognizes it. Thus, Kavalerov turns into a “second-rate poet” radically breaking with Olesha’s self-image.


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