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This report is taken from PN Review 235, Volume 43 Number 5, May - June 2017.

Todorov Our Contemporary Nicolas Tredell
TZVETAN TODOROV (1939–2017), linguist, literary analyst, pioneering translator and exponent of the Russian Formalists and Mikhail Bakhtin, theorist of the fantastic, historian of ideas and political commentator, and author of around forty books, died in Paris of multiple system atrophy on 7 February 2017. He was seventy-seven.

Todorov, the son of Todor Todorov Borov and Haritian (Peeva) Todorova, was born on 1 March 1939 in Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria, a one-party communist state from 1946 to 1989. Life under communism fostered in Todorov’s generation an attitude of detachment from political and social issues which, together with a desire to avoid the dogmas of communist literary criticism, inclined him towards a formalist approach to literary study. He graduated from the University of Sofia in 1961 and in 1963, at the age of twenty-four, he went to Paris and pursued a doctorate with a supervisor who would soon become famous: Roland Barthes. After finishing his doctorate in 1966, the only Parisian institution where he could get an academic job (since he was not yet a French citizen) was the CNRS (Le Centre national de la recherche scientifique); but this proved a boon because it gave him ample time for research and writing without the obligation to teach – though he did later become concerned with pedagogic issues. Apart from Visiting Professorships in the USA and other temporary posts abroad, he stayed at the CNRS throughout his professional life, directing its Centre for Research into Arts and Language from 1983 to 1987.

In Paris, deploying his knowledge of ...


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