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[Klejn L.S.] It’s difficult to be Klejn. An Autobiography in monologues and dialogues by Leo S. Klejn (Prospect-Abstract)

Nestor-Istoriya, St. Petesrburg, 2010, in Russian

By Leo S. Klejn


This book, of an impressive size (promised for spring 2009 by Nestor-Istoriya, St. Petersburg), was written by Leo S. Klejn, the archaeologist, anthropologist ans philologist, in his declining years, on the basis of recollections, letters and interviews. A considerable part of the book consists of vivid dialogues and correspondence and this lends it the character of a documentary. The author, who worked at well-known universities around the world sets his autobiography within the context of surrounding national and international events. He portrays the people whose paths crossed his, including leading figures of domestic and international scholarship and prominent figures of culture. The narrative is interspersed with the author’s own poetry (revealing a previously hidden side of his abilities).


The course of the author’s life has been dramatic as were the event through which he has lived. He has been at the front in the war, on archaeological expeditions, in prison and on international congresses, (in Russia, Western Europe and in America). So in many places the book reads as a romance with a dashingly twisted plot. The Author’s views often radically diverged from the views of the establishment – as indeed they still do. This is why many chapters of the book have something of a polemical tone.


The author’s evaluations inevitably bear a subjective character: as such, they run the risk of offending those mentioned, and they will certainly meet with objections. Yet these evaluations have not emerged from a vacuum; they are the products of personal experience, not not infrequently bitter.


The proud title came about by chance. Long ago the author entitled one of his reviews (of an English collection) It’s difficult to be a God. In this he compared the contributors of the collection to the heroes of Strugatskys’ romance of the same name. As it was the custom among archaeologists to poke fun at Klejn’s opinion of himself, in Moscow the joke began that Klejn had published his autobiography and entitled it It’s difficult to be a God. Having corrected this witticism in his own manner Klejn entitled his memoirs, i. e. his real autobiography, It’s difficult to be Klejn. The title reflects the fact that his life was really not at all easy, for which he blames, first and foremost, himself (but, indeed, he did not look for an easy life).


The book is illustrated with photographs, and supplied with a bibliography and indices.

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A conversation between the Publisher and the Author

Description of the sources

Autobiography in monologues and dialogues

Part I. Childhood and youth

1. Vitebsk, the family

2. Evacuation

3. The front

4. Grodno, Pedagogical Institute

Part II. Entering scholarship and the cultural capital

5. Learning in Leningrad

6. The teacher

7. Diploma work

8. Archaeologist or teacher?

9. Beginning research

Part III. Archaeologist at the University

10. Post-graduate years

11. The start of University work

12. Catacombs and the dissertation

13. Gold and the silver of the first century

14. Varangian battle

15. Indo-Aryans

16. Tripol’e and the Bronze Age

Part IV. Overcoming borders

17. Through the Iron Curtain

18. Riddles of archaeology

19. The marriage that did not happen

20. The trip to DDR

21. Schliemann and the Cymmerian darkness

22. Lion with a spade

23. Dangerous people

24. Swedish rationalism

25. Theory

26. From Bryusov to Kossinna, from Gumilev to Bromley

27. Migrations

28. New Archaeology

29. Panoramas

Part V. Temptations

30. Musical story

31. Colleagues

32. Inmates

33. Sources

34. Prehistory

35. Toward the comprehension of the phenomenon

36. Marxism

37. Typology

Part VI. Ordeal

38. Arrest

39. “Crosses”

40. Investigation and trial

41. Zone

42. Comprehension: the savage within and in culture

43. The first years of freedom

Part VII. New horizons

44. Trojan war

45. Blue trilogy

46. Perun

47. Travel in Europe

48. Renewal of theoretical work

49. Return to my Alma Mater

50. Damir

51. The History of the discipline

52. Controversy on religion

53. The Problem of becoming old and making plans

Part VII. Summation

54. Prospects for the country and archaeology

55. The school

56. Ethics of an archaeologist

57. Memoirs and scholarly folklore

58. Is it difficult to be a God?


I.    Commandments to the participants of archaeological seminar

II.   Four commandments for conferences in theory by Stig Welinder, with Klejn’s critical comments

III. Aphorisms on scholarly life

IV. Russian archaeology at the turn

V.  Diagnosis


List of illustrations

Subject index

Names index

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В начало страницы

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