Publication Date

4-15-2016

Advisor(s)

Susanne Fusso

Major

Russian & East European Studies

Language

English (United States)

Abstract

In my research, I seek to answer the following questions: Based on the inherent contradictions between a Western detective novel and Communist Russian society, why were Rex Stout’s detective novels popular in the Soviet Union? What was the political appeal of the novels’ plots during different periods in Russian history, from the Soviet Union to the present? What influence has Stout’s Nero Wolfe series had on Soviet and Russian culture? I will begin answering these questions by detailing a brief history of the detective genre in Russia. I will then explain the role that Stout as the author played in the most important political themes of his books in the American detective corpus, including all pertinent references to Communism and Russia. The next section will introduce the role of his books in Russia, with the context for their content already discussed, and then will analyze some general theories on how Western detective novels in translation affected Russian culture and the literary scene. I will intersperse quotations from people that read Stout during the Soviet period and how they felt about him in reference to his most political novels. Many will be taken from the Russian online Nero Wolfe fan site, which I discovered during my initial research. On the site, I found many members willing to talk with me through their discussion forum about Stout’s influence on their lives. The makeup of the forum is such that anyone can become a member and start a new topic or add comments to a previously discussed topic. This forum consisted of all Russian speakers, but not all necessarily from Russia itself. My initial query on the forum about Stout in Russia led to an explanation that members came from Ukraine, Belarus, Latvia, Kazakhstan, Armenia, Estonia, and more, and that limiting my topic to Russia was too narrow in several users’ opinions. I took this into account in my research, but did not have the time or space to delve into Stout in every country mentioned, and made up for this by including some information on his Russian language publications in the wider Soviet bloc in more general terms in Chapter Four. In my thesis, I will be referencing the forum discussion generated by my initial questions posted to the discussion, “Nero Wolfe, Archie Goodwin, and all that is connected with them,” as well as draw on other comments made in various discussion threads pertinent to my writing. I will use the users’ comments to provide a contemporary reaction to Stout’s books from the perspectives of those who either read his books in Russian during the Soviet Union or after 1990, but who still read his books today in Russian translation. The thesis will continue with an explanation of how Stout’s books influenced specific Russian writers in terms of plots and characters, and then how his books manifested themselves in different formats, like the online fan clubs, the cookbook, and the television show. I will conclude by discussing the overall implications of the impression that Stout left on Russian culture through his almost forty years of popularity in Russia.

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