Revolutionary Experiments: The Quest for Immortality in Bolshevik Science and Fiction

Oxford University Press

This book examines a particular fascination with the dream of immortality and the place of science and fiction in its pursuit in Russia during roughly a decade that followed the country’s political revolutions of 1917. It argues that contemporary scientific experiments aimed at the control over life, death, and disease inspired many Russian writers to conduct their own literary experiments with the ideas and techniques offered by experimental biology and medicine, which found expression in both popular-science writings and a new literary genre, science fiction. As a result of this intense, if often indirect, dialogue between science and fiction, esoteric, specialized knowledge generated by experimental biology and medicine became transformed into an influential cultural resource. This book investigates the contexts and principles of this transformation, the various groups of actors—scientists, their Bolshevik patrons, and their literary fans/critics—who participated in creating this resource and shaped its contents to their own ends, and the relative roles of science and literature in pursuing the dream of immortality in 1920s Russia. It demonstrates that this cultural resource facilitated the establishment of large specialized institutions for biomedical research, inspired numerous science fiction stories, displaced religious beliefs, and gave the centuries-old dream of immortality new forms and new meanings in Bolshevik Russia.

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