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Russian Authors Say Literature Refutes Time and Space

Published: April 29, 2014 (Issue # 1807)



  • Author Zakhar Prilepin, right, with opposition politician Eduard Limonov.
    Photo: Dmitry Rozhkov / CC BY-SA 3.0

As the 2014 U.K.–Russia Year of Culture gets into full swing, a wide array of events in London are allowing locals to become better acquainted with Russian art, theater and literature. At a recent discussion titled "In Search of the Essence of the Modern Russian Novel," Russian authors Zakhar Prilepin and Yevgeny Vodolazkin discussed the essence of the modern Russian novel.

The choice of this particular pair of authors seemed to promise an interesting debate, given their striking differences. While both men are prize-winning Russian novelists, Prilepin is known to be a highly political figure and member of opposition politician Eduard Limonov's National Bolshevik Party. Vodolazkin, on the other hand, generally avoids public life and focuses on philosophical, esoteric novels.

The debate began with relative agreement between the pair, as Vodolazkin agreed with Prilepin's statement defining the purpose of the modern Russian novel as "moving away from traditional norms in order to solve the main issues of humanity such as evil, militarism and xenophobia." Vodolazkin similarly noted that the essence of the modern Russian novel lies in "not being afraid of pathos, grand gestures or metaphysics." Both authors agreed that this was a far cry from the literary decline of the 1990s, when Russian writers generally avoided grand metaphysical issues.

While agreeing on the essence of the modern Russian novel, Prilepin and Vodolazkin expressed different approaches to producing the modern Russian novel based on their political views. Vodolazkin said that he was "anti-political," and suggested that the disadvantage of utopia was that "everyone is treated the same," and that the "collective approach is horrific," as everyone is made to strive for the same ideals. Vodolazkin's best-known novel, "Laurus," is a reflection of his views, representing the personal growth and struggle of one individual in ancient Russia.

Conversely, Prilepin's views are "nearest to contemporary times — the times of revolutions, state-wide destruction and political turmoil." This line of thought is reproduced in Prilepin's work — the author feels that "civil war is never over." Prilepin's nationalistic utopian ideals are for him based on the fact that "Russia is about emotions and huge problems." These large schemes are present in all Prilepin's books like "Sanka," which predicted the Euromaidan movement in Ukraine or "Pathologies," a book about the war in Chechnya.

However, despite surface disagreements, the authors agreed that on a wider scale, all authors focus on the same universal themes, both in modern Russian literature and worldwide. According to Prilepin, "there is no history." Universal values like "love, goodwill and compassion" will always exist, and "real literature shows that there is no time or space."





 


ALL ABOUT TOWN

Friday, Nov. 28


Join table-top game aficionados at the British Book Center’s Board Game Evening. Held every Friday at 5 p.m., aficionados and amateurs alike can come take part in a variety of different games that test one’s intellect and cunning.



Saturday, Nov. 29


Cats, dogs, birds, rodents and reptiles are just some of the things that will walk and crawl at Lenexpo convention center this weekend as part of Zooshow, a two-day exhibition featuring not only man’s best friends but a four-legged fashion show, as well as a food fair that will help pet owners find out more about which kibbles are best for their hungry pets.



Sunday, Nov. 30


Remember the 75th anniversary of the beginning of the Russo-Finnish war in 1939 during today’s reenactment titled “Winter War: How it Was.” More than 200 people will take part in recreating the opening salvoes of the battle for the north in Kamenka, a small village situated between Vyborg and St. Petersburg, using authentic equipment and vintage vehicles from the era. The faux battle begins at 2 p.m.



Monday, Dec. 1


Serbia filmmaker Emir Kusturica is the featured guest this evening at the Lensovet Palace of Culture the Petrograd Side. Fans of the director will get the chance to watch his movie “Black Cat, White Cat,” as well as ask questions about his award-winning filmography. Tickets for the event, which starts at 7 p.m., start at 2,000 rubles ($42.50).



Tuesday, Dec. 2


Today is the final day of “Takoy Festival,” a three-week program of plays based on the works of Dostoevsky, Remarque and other famed European writers, whose work is transcribed for theatrical performances. Tonight’s festival finale is “Fathers and Sons,” a two-act drama staged by the Novosibirsk Academic Drama Theater based on Turgenev’s classic about familial relations.



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