To See Paris and Die: The Soviet Lives of Western Culture


Product Details

Belknap Press
Publish Date
6.4 X 9.3 X 1.5 inches | 1.9 pounds

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About the Author

Eleonory Gilburd is Assistant Professor of History at the University of Chicago.


In a brilliantly written and deeply researched narrative, Gilburd captures the tension between the Thaw's openness to cultural influences from the West--through art exhibitions; youth, peace, and film festivals; world literature; and increasing tourism--and the simultaneous need to 'translate' and render them Soviet.--David Shneer, author of Through Soviet Jewish Eyes: Photography, War, and the Holocaust
A tour de force by a historian working at the top of her craft. By showing how Western culture was transmitted to and transformed by Soviet audiences, Gilburd has made an impressive contribution to our understanding not only of late Soviet history but of European history broadly.--Stephen V. Bittner, author of The Many Lives of Khrushchev's Thaw: Experience and Memory in Moscow's Arbat
This highly original and readable work is sweeping in its breadth and depth. Gilburd covers a wide range of Western culture--literature, travelogues, art, film, music, theater--and chronicles Soviet reactions to it. Her treatment includes, among other things, the organization of cultural exchange, the distribution of books and films, and the role of Soviet authority figures in mediating the dissemination of Western works.--Katerina Clark, author of Moscow, the Fourth Rome: Stalinism, Cosmopolitanism, and the Evolution of Soviet Culture, 1931-1941
A captivating, sensual portrait of late Soviet emotional life. Eleonory Gilburd describes how Soviets dreamed their way into another world--the magical, beautiful 'West.' Unfortunately, the real West turned out to be a bitter disappointment.--Kate Brown, author of Plutopia: Nuclear Families, Atomic Cities, and the Great Soviet and American Plutonium Disasters
How and why did Western culture enter the Soviet Union, and what meanings did it accrue for Soviet translators, spectators, and readers? To See Paris and Die explores these questions in new and powerful ways. It will make a signal intervention into the fields of Soviet, Cold War, and translation studies.--Jochen Hellbeck, author of Stalingrad: The City That Defeated the Third Reich
Traces the officially sanctioned channels through which Western books, paintings, films, and songs reached a mass audience, and the varied and surprising stories of how they were appropriated and transformed for a Soviet setting...Gilburd's book restores meaning and value to the detritus of the Thaw. She brings into view the individuals who gave Western culture its Soviet lives...Her writing magnificently combines scholarly sophistication with insight and sympathy.--Rachel Polonsky "New York Review of Books" (8/15/2019 12:00:00 AM)
To See Paris and Die is, at its core, a well-researched historical study of the process of distortion. By tracing the Soviet afterlives of Western art, Gilburd gestures toward a larger narrative, one that lays bare the processes by which we create myths about other parts of the world in order to understand our place within it...Offers a glimpse into a side of the Soviet Union that's often given short shrift in our cultural memory: its incredibly international orientation.--Jennifer Wilson "New Republic" (5/9/2019 12:00:00 AM)
Engaging...Gilburd's book is far more than a catalogue of cultural dissemination. It captures how people reacted to what they witnessed, from outrage at bared flesh in Western movies to awe at blockbuster exhibitions of Picasso and Rockwell Kent...Succeeds eloquently in conveying just how Soviet citizens reacted to 'the shock of the new.'--Catriona Kelly "Times Literary Supplement" (1/9/2019 12:00:00 AM)
Fascinating...Succeeds in presenting another Soviet Union, one 'suffused with non-Soviet things, films, sounds, and stories, ' which, as much as any high politics, shaped the way citizens understood the west, their rulers, and themselves.--Harry Robertson "Financial Times" (12/14/2018 12:00:00 AM)
While Gilburd's prose is at its liveliest and most evocative describing clamor and commotion, as in the case of the Moscow Youth Festival and the Picasso exhibition, her chapters on the mechanics of cultural contact are tours de force.--Sheila Fitzpatrick "London Review of Books" (8/1/2019 12:00:00 AM)
Gilburd reveals the extensive Soviet cultural appropriation of Western arts, music, books and cinema during the 1950s and 1960s...One of the most delightful aspects of this history is her focus on the reception Western works received among Soviet audiences.--Kristen R. Ghodsee "Times Higher Education" (1/17/2019 12:00:00 AM)
This impressive and important work forces us to consider how really existing socialism came to construct the West as an alternative utopia.--Michael David-Fox "Journal of Modern History" (9/1/2020 12:00:00 AM)
Gilburd relies in her study on diverse historical sources from several Russian archives, which prove particularly effective in her discussion of Soviet popular reactions to Western art...She masterfully shows how encounters with Western art produced discontent, confusion, and excitement in Soviet citizens.--Sofia Lopatina "Ab Imperio" (4/1/2022 12:00:00 AM)