New Literary Observer # 134

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New Literary Observer # 134, Issue Presentation
September 22, 2015. 19:00
Andrey Bely Center (ABCenter), 4 Vilensky pereulok, Saint-Petersburg

New Literary Observer # 134, Issue Presentation

This section focuses on the liminal, alternative writing located between fiction and non-fiction. An article from Aleksey Konakov (St. Petersburg), “Overco­ming autarchy (on Leon Bogdanov’s Notes),” examines the diary or quasi-diary prose of Leon Bogdanov (1942—1987). Bogdanov, one of the most fascinating representatives of Leningrad unofficial culture and a poet, was an artist, literary figure and winner of the Andrey Bely Prize (1986) for his book Notes on Tea-Drinking and Earthquakes. In his analysis, Konakov makes use of the “semantic nests” method suggested by V. Vinogradov for investigating the poetic speech of Anna Akhmatova. Konakov projects this method onto the idiosyncratic psychogeography of 1960s—80s Leningrad, with its overgrown empty lots, communal apartments and claustrophobic inner courtyards. “In the Notes, Leningrad’s quiet provincial quality miraculously turns into Petersburg cosmopolitanism; and we suddenly realize that Bogdanov’s love for Indian tea, Oriental literature, earthquakes and the latest world news is a ‘transformed’ versi­on of the famous Acmeist ‘longing for world culture,’ which only in this way is able to make an appearance in the rather specific context of ‘late socialism.’”

In “Subject and genre in the ‘poetics of loss’ (On the ‘novels’ of Andrey Levki­n),” Stanislav Snytko (St. Petersburg) makes the first serious attempt to describe the poetics of Levkin’s ‘late’ prose, beginning with the novel Golem, the Russian version (2002) and ending with his latest experimental texts published on According to Snytko, the language of these texts is ascetic, essentially devoid of “artistic devices,” its lexicon and intonation leaning toward the conversational (and in places breaking down into aphasia). “It would seem that in subtracting all the ‘literariness’ from a text, removing all the excess and preserving only ‘the convention is that there already exist words,’ the writer seeks to create his own version of not just post(non)fiction, but even a pure ‘writing as such.’ This recalls the experiments of Leon Bogdanov, though unlike him, Levkin doesn’t even keep the diary base.” 



Despite the fact that two programmatic books by Paul de Man (Blindness and Insight and Allegories of Reading) and more than a dozen by Jacques Derrida, inclu­ding central texts like Writing and Difference, On Grammatology and Specters of Marx, have been published in Russia, not to mention journal pub­li­catio­ns and monographs on the subject, deconstruction is still often perceiv­ed — even in professional circles — as a synonym for destruction, irrespon­sible (“post­modernist”) games and moral relativism. Meanwhile, beginni­ng from at least the 1980s, Derrida’s thought was persistently connected to problems of ethics and politics, to questions of what constitutes responsibility and a responsible utteran­ce or decision. And while in his search for an answer he tur­ned to literary texts (alongside the philosophical and political), problematizing “generic” boundaries themselves and the conditions of their realization as he went along, this in no way made his task more superficial or his method of questioning less strict. Below we present two variations, or two trajectories, of deconstruction (Derrida invariably insisted that deconstruction did not exist in the singular).

In “Obituary for an allegory. On the thanatopoetics of the north in the lyric poetry of Nikolay Zabolotsky” Heinrich Kirschbaum (Humboldt Universität, Berlin) follows Paul de Man, according to whom the operation of deconstruction is carried out by the literary (poetic) work itself rather than the critical reader.

Dragan Kujundžić (University of Florida-Gainesville, USA) advocates a more “orthodox” Derridean approach in “‘Whoever wishes to die does not die.’ The Dionysian refuge of Anna Alchuk.” Kujundžić analysis of the poetic text is closely intertwined with extreme political and ethical stakes, including the contem­porary political situation in Russia. It is hoped that this “double” publication will sponsor a more considered and responsible understanding of the critical procedure known as “deconstruction.”