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Skaz (Russian: сказ, IPA: [ˈskas]) is a Russian oral form of narrative. The word comes from skazátʹ, "to tell", and is also related to such words as rasskaz, "short story" and skazka, "fairy tale".[1] The speech makes use of dialect and slang in order to take on the persona of a particular character.[2] The peculiar speech, however, is integrated into the surrounding narrative, and not presented in quotation marks.[3] This is not only a literary device, but is also used as an element in Russian monologue comedy.[4]

Skaz was first described by the Russian formalist Boris Eikhenbaum in the late 1910s. In a couple of articles published at this time, the literary scholar described the phenomenon as a form of unmediated or improvisational speech.[5] He applied it specifically to Nikolai Gogol's short story The Overcoat, in a 1919 essay titled How Gogol's "Overcoat" Is Made.[1] Eikhenbaum saw skaz as central to Russian culture, and believed that a national literature could not develop without a strong attachment to oral traditions.[4] Among the literary critics who elaborated on this theory in the 1920s were Yury Tynyanov, Viktor Vinogradov, and Mikhail Bakhtin.[5] The latter insists on the importance of skaz in stylization.[6]

In the nineteenth century, the style was most prominently used by Nikolai Leskov, in addition to Gogol. Twentieth-century proponents include Aleksey Remizov, Mikhail Zoshchenko, Andrei Platonov, and Isaac Babel.[1] The term is also used to describe elements in the literature of other countries; in recent times it has been popularised by the British author and literary critic David Lodge.[7] John Mullan, a professor of English at University College London, finds examples of skaz in J. D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye and DBC Pierre's Vernon God Little.[8]


  1. ^ a b c Cornwell, Neil (2005). "Skaz Narrative". The Literary Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2009-09-06.
  2. ^ "skaz". Britannica Online Encyclopedia. Britannica. Retrieved 2009-09-06.
  3. ^ Peter J. Potichnyj, ed. (1988). The Soviet Union: Party and Society. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 108–9. ISBN 0-521-34460-3.
  4. ^ a b Mesropova, Olga (2004). "Between Literary and Subliterary Paradigms: Skaz and Contemporary Russian Estrada Comedy". Canadian Slavonic Papers. Retrieved 2009-09-06.
  5. ^ a b Hemenway, Elizabeth Jones. "Skaz". Russian History Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2009-09-06.
  6. ^ Bakhtin, M., "Discourse Typology in Prose" (1929), in Readings in Russian Poetics, ed. L. Matejka and K. Pomorska (Ann Arbor, 1978), pp. 180-182.
  7. ^ Lodge, David (1992). "Teenage Skaz". The Art of Fiction: Illustrated from Classic and Modern Texts. London: Penguin. pp. 17–20. ISBN 0-14-017492-3.
  8. ^ Mullan, John (2006-11-18). "Talk this way". The Guardian. Retrieved 2009-09-06.

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