Stephen Leach has sent us notice of his new book about Leo Klejn, published by Left Coast Press.
The following is the Forward by Professor Stephen Shennan:
Leo Klejn is an extraordinary individual: a polymath, an intellectual provocateur, not least a survivor of the events of his own life. He is also almost certainly the only theoretical archaeologist from the Soviet Union and Russia that Anglophone audiences have ever heard of, although these days I wonder how many even that is true of. Even if they know the name they probably know next to nothing about the man and his ideas. I hope Stephen Leach’s excellent book changes that. It certainly deserves to. The subject might be thought rather forbidding, but I found the book compulsive. Part of the reason for this is Klejn’s amazing life story, but what gives the book its special power and attraction is that it is less a standard intellectual biography and much more a dialogue between the author and Klejn himself. This approach gives a powerful sense of what the man is like—brilliant, argumentative, iron-willed, never one to accept the conventional view or the easy path—and with the toughness to take the consequences of these character traits for his life in the old Soviet Union and after.
But in presenting Klejn’s ideas in their context the book is also a window on a very different intellectual world, an archaeological tradition that has developed almost entirely independently of the Anglo-American one and is largely unknown to most of us. It is not just about archaeology though. We are told that Klejn has said that ‘in his life he had but one legal wife, archaeology, but many mistresses—anthropology, history, philology, and folklore studies’. His wide-ranging intellectual curiosity and remarkable productivity means he has made book-length contributions to all of these, and Leach gives each of them its due. In the end, though, like Klejn, it is the archaeology we return to and in particular to his views about the relationship between archaeology and history. Here and elsewhere I’m sure most readers from the Anglo-American tradition will find much that provokes them to debate and disagreement, but before embarking on this debate they should certainly read and ponder this book’s indispensable appendix of archaeological and academic ‘commandments’ that were on the walls for Klejn’s student seminars.
We should all be very grateful to Stephen Leach for writing this hugely engaging introduction to an extraordinary man and his ideas.