Life of a Bishop’s Assistant is a “rewritten” biography of the eighteenth-century historical figure Gavriil Dobrinin. The son of a priest, he became a bishop’s assistant before being fortunate enough to rise all the way to the position of gubernia procurator. Shklovsky illuminates Dobrinin’s obscure story, narrating it with an innovative ingenuity that takes centre stage. Like Zoo, or Letters Not About Love, Life of a Bishop’s Assistant is a notable example of experimentation with narrative form by one of the twentieth century’s leading theorists.
A leading figure in the Russian Formalist movement of the 1920s, Viktor Shklovsky (1893-1984) had a profound effect on twentieth-century Russian literature. Several of his books have been translated into English, including Theory of Prose, Knight’s Move, and A Hunt for Optimism, all available from Dalkey Archive Press.