Life of a Bishop's Assistant is a "rewritten" biography of the 18th century historical figure, Gavriil Dobrinin. The son of a priest, he became an assistant to a bishop before being fortunate to rise all the way to gubernia procurator. Despite the obscurity of Dobrinin, it is Shklovsky's narration of his story that takes center stage. Like Zoo, or Letters Not About Love, Life of a Bishop's Assistant is a notable example of experimentation with narrative form in the early twentieth century by one of its leading theorists.
"In their heterogeneity, their subversive undercurrents, their way of achieving inclusion through use of digression while simultaneously using digressions as means of being pointed, the works of Viktor Shklovsky are so appropriate to our contemporary situation as to seem to have been written for us. His writings do precisely what he has said it is art's goal to do: they 'restore . . . sensation of the world,' they 'resurrect things and kill pessimism.'" ~Lyn Hejinian
"The recollections of almost anyone who lived through the Russian Revolution have historical interest, and the memoirs of a major literary figure like Viktor Shklovsky are a priceless document." ~Virginia Quarterly Review
"Shklovsky is a disciple worthy of Sterne. He has appropriated the device of of infinitely delayed events, of the digression helplessly promising to return to the point, and of disguising his superbly controlled art with a breezy nonchalance. But it is not really Sterne that Shklovsky sounds like: it is an intellectual and witty Hemingway." ~National Review
"A rambling, digressive stylist, Shklovsky throws off brilliant aperçus on every page . . . Like an architect's blueprint, it lays bare the joists and studs that hold up the house of fiction." ~Washington Post
"Shklovsky's short novel [Life of a Bishop's Assistant] serves up some subtly funny, suggestively subversive resonances that might remind the reader of his contemporary Mikhail Bulgakov…" ~Kirkus Reviews