The career of Valentin Kataev (1897-) spans the
entire Soviet period, during which he has continued to write
and publish topical works despite the many changes of
political and literary climate. The aim of this thesis
is to trace the evolution of Kataev's career from the
beginning until 1969. The diversity of Kataev's work is
most striking, but from an early date it contains two elements
which are almost always present and which frequently pull
in opposite directions. These are aestheticism and support
for the Communist regime. In Trava zabven'ya (1967) Kataev
implicitly links these elements with the two great influences
on his work - the aesthete, Bunin, and the ideologically
committed Mayakovskii. Kataev's uneasy position in Trava
zabven'ya midway between Bunin and Mayakovskii reflects the
most notable feature of his entire work.
His earliest work was lyric poetry written under
Bunin's influence and characterised by clarity, concreteness
and sensuousness. These qualities carried over into his
prose, and Kataev's gifts are largely those of the poet
rather than the novelist. In the 1920s he was a typical
Fellow Traveller, writing both lyrical and satirical works.
At the beginning of the 1930s he heeded warnings to change
his style, and for thirty years wrote works which were
politically acceptable but which reveal his 'Bunin' side
intermittently. In the 1960s he surprised critics by writing
modernistic works apparently quite unlike his earlier books.
But Svyatoi kolodets, Trava zabven'ya and Kubik are not
entirely new; they recall features of the works of the
1920s. Whereas in the previous era the 'Mayakovskii' side
had dominated, now, in the more relaxed atmosphere of the
1960s, the 'Bunin' side came once more to the fore, eclipsing
but not extinguishing Kataev's protestations of support for
the Soviet regime.