This essay proposes to place the poetics of Russian Formalism within a broader European context of literary, philosophical, and political reflection on modernity. The historical metamorphosis of estrangement from a technique of art to an existential art of survival and a practice of freedom and dissent is traced here through Victor Shklovsky's experimental autobiographical texts of the 1920s and their critical reception. In this analysis, estrangement is not regarded as an escape from the political; instead, it helps us think anew the relationship between aesthetic and political practices in Stalin's time. Shklovsky's writing on estrangement and freedom is read together with Hannah Arendt's reflections on distance, freedom, and the banality of evil.

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