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Living by the Golden Rule: Mentor – Scholar – World Citizen

A Festschrift for Wolfgang Mieder’s 75th Birthday

Edited By Andreas Nolte and Dennis Mahoney

This Festschrift for Wolfgang Mieder, preeminent paremiologist and folklorist, combines personal tributes and scholarly papers by colleagues, friends, and former students – presented in three categories that address his roles as a mentor, scholar, and world citizen over many decades.

The central scholarly section likewise consists of three parts. The papers dealing with proverbs examine them as patterns, stereotypes, rhetorical devices, media for self-enchantment, and means of allusion in works by Tolstoy, Solzhenitsyn, Chukovskaya, and Kempowski. A second group deals with fairy-tale motifs in literary works by Lehmann, Rabinowich, and Hummel. A third section includes topics ranging from James Bond to Stephen King, from runaway slaves to the Holocaust, and literature as cultural ecology.

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Pravda u kazhdogo svoia, no istina odna

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Pravda, Istina, and the Status of Truth in Lydia Chukovskaya’s Sofia Petrovna

Abstract: Lydia Chukovskaya’s novella Sofia Petrovna highlights both the exalted status of truth in the Russian cultural context and its assault under Stalinism by depicting its heroine’s struggle to believe two truths at once: one “truth” manipulated by the State and presented in the newspaper Pravda, and one deeper truth (istina) about her son’s innocence.

Lydia Chukovskaya’s novella Sofia Petrovna is one of very few surviving narratives of Stalin’s Great Purge that was actually composed during that era, as the author – whose own husband had been arrested and (unbeknownst to her) executed – attempted to document and decipher the unfathomable events transpiring around her. The story details the tragedy of a middle-aged Leningrad widow whose beloved son is arrested, forcing her to leave her job and join the lines of women outside the prosecutor’s office, all desperately awaiting news of their own arrested loved ones. Over the course of the work, it becomes increasingly challenging for the heroine, a sort of Soviet everywoman, to simultaneously believe in the “truth” offered by the state (which claims that only saboteurs and party traitors are being arrested) and what she knows to be true of her son (he is a loyal Communist, innocent of the absurd charges against him). By focusing on Sofia Petrovna’s doomed choice between these two conflicting narratives, the novella highlights the exalted status of truth in the Russian cultural context, and its...

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