Novel histories: repudiation of Soviet historiography in the works of Iurii Trifonov, Vladimir Makanin, and Liudmila Ulitskaia Public Deposited

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  • March 21, 2019
  • Powers, Jenne
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Germanic and Slavic Languages and Literatures
  • Aspects of Stalinist historiography have influenced the style of late-Soviet and post-Soviet Russian prose fiction. Through a simplified linear plot, archetypically heroic and villainous characterizations, and catechismal rhetoric, the Soviet leadership manipulated Russian history to justify their own power. Soviet historiographical methods of emplotment and characterization as well as narrative and rhetorical devices form a stratum of meaning in the fiction of Iurii Trifonov, Vladimir Makanin, and Liudmila Ulitskaia. These three writers polemicize with the style and substance of Soviet historiography, but they do not participate in a postmodern rejection of the artist's potential role as historian. These three author's fictional plots counteract the teleological plot of official Soviet history. The prose fiction of Trifonov, Makanin, and Ulitskaia disavows the linear progress plot through fragmentation. The actors in the dramas of Soviet historiography are typically collectives: peasants, workers, and the Party. The characters in the works I will present by Trifonov, Makanin, and Ulitskaia reverse this choice of character. Their characters tend to be anything but heroic; they are failures, underdogs, and underachievers. They are foremost individuals, however, alienated from the collective and acting, or refusing to act, according to expectations or rational laws. This prose also abounds in metaphors and symbols for the passage and effects of time. Natural images such as fire and flood, evocative emblematic emotions, such as Makanin's feeling of being left behind, and dream imagery all serve to personalize history. Finally, official Soviet histories were narrated by a single, authoritative voice. A consistent feature of the novels and longer works of Trifonov, Makanin, and Ulitskaia is the presence of multiple narrators within single, unified works. The presence of voices in first and third person in each of these works forces the reader to accept not only multiple viewpoints, but also multiple ways of telling the stories of the past.
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  • Levine, Madeline G.
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  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
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