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Schamma Schahadat, Universität Tübingen

Postmodernism – Postcommunism
Literature from Eastern Europe between Two Cultures of Post-
Postmoderne – Postkommunismus
Die osteuropäische Literatur im Spannungsfeld der post-Kulturen

vorgestellt von Лейсан Халюллина (Leisan Khaliullina)

Russia, the Russian cultural critic Mikhail Epstein claims, has always been postmodern (Epstein 1995, 189ff.) - at least since Peter the Great imported Western culture into Russia. While the West in the 1960s and 1970s experienced hyperreality as a postmodern phenomenon and for the first time realized that there are things that are more real than reality itself, Russian culture was built on this hyperreality for nearly three-hundred years. Russian culture has never separated reality from irreality, Russia has always been a Potemkin village, i.e. a fictive village. Reality in Russia, Epstejn provocatively claims, is always a simulation, never real. Epstejn thus paints an image of Russia that the West might like: Russia is different, extreme and maybe doesn’t even exist. Just think of Nikolay Gogol’s hero Khlestakov who is mistaken for a “revizor” and who creates fictitious worlds of wealth and power by merely talking. These worlds terrorize a whole provincial village which believes every word the impostor says. Or of Chichikov, who buys serfs that do not exist, that is “dead souls”, and as a consequence acquires social status. Or, more tragic, think of Socialist Realism which enacted a radiant future in an oppressive reality characterized by a basic lack of essentially everything.

By claiming that Russia has always been postmodern, Epstejn applies a genuinely Western concept to Russian culture. He thus brings two different realities together, translating one into the other. While Epshtejn de-historicizes the term postmodernism, cultural critics have tried to transport Western postmodernism to Russia since 1989, arguing that Russia, like the West, has experienced a postmodern condition. Literary critics like Olga Bogdanova traced the first signs of postmodernism in Russian prose in the 1960s (such as Venedikt Yerofeyev) or the 1970s (like for instance Andrej Bitov) (Bogdanova 2004, 35).

What I am interested in is the question: what happens when one culture’s concept (in this case: Western postmodernism) is applied to another culture (in this case: Russian culture where, other than in Western Europe or the United States, modernism was interrupted or at least succeeded by the aesthetics of Socialist Realism). Are the novels of Russian authors such as Vladimir Sorokin or Viktor Pelevin postmodernist? This is not an easy question to answer since there are authors who are closer to the Western version of postmodernismand other authors whose texts seem to embody postmodernist characteristics although they are decidedly based on the cultural experience of Soviet aesthetics. Another problem is the fact that there is not one but many postmodernisms – the American version varies, for example, from the French. My focus here, however, will be the question on how features of (Western) postmodernism found in Soviet culture of the 1960s, 70s and 80s as well as in postcommunist culture can be traced back to other traditions that differ from the Western context. I want to argue that not everything which seems postmodernist is what we usually call postmodernist. I will look at seemingly postmodernist characteristics in the Soviet as well as in the postcommunist contexts. My test case will mostly be literary texts, since this is what I am most familiar with.

In my talk I will analyze various characteristics of what is considered postmodern in order to understand what happened to them in the Soviet or post-Soviet context. This makes my original question even more complicated, since not only does Western postmodernism meet Russian culture, but also two posts : postmodernism meets postcommunism. The situation in the cultural landscape of Eastern Europe (not only of Russia) is defined by what Boris Groys refers to as the “postcommunist condition” and I want to show that it is specifically this condition that defines the East European version of postmodernism. When transported into Eastern Europe, postmodernism changes – it is affected by the postcommunist condition.

Now I would like to take a closer look at some traits of postmodernism before I examine what happens to them when they are transplanted into the Russian cultural con text (the list is, of course, by no means exhaustive; it names just a few singular characteristics):

  1. Postmodernism is similar to a chronotope in the Bakhtinian sense, taking the connection between the temporal and spatial dimensions to an extreme (?, bin mir nicht sicher ob du das so meinst)(think of intertextuality, for example). Although Lyotard’s definition of postmodernism vs. modernism concentrates on a temporal axis, he does nonetheless show how postmodernism gave up linear time. I will quote his definition at some length:

    “modern aesthetics is an aesthetic of the sublime, though a nostalgic one. It allows the unrepresentable to be put forward only as the missing contents; but the form, because of its recognizable consistency, continues to offer the reader or viewer matter for solace and pleasure. /… / The postmodern would be that which, in the modern, puts forward the unpresentable in presentation itself; that which denies itself the solace of good forms, the consensus of a taste which would make it possible to share collectively the nostalgia for the unattainable, not in order to enjoy them but in order to impart a stronger sense of the unpresentable. /…/ The artist and the writer are working without rules /…/ in order to formulate the rules of what will have to be done . Hence the fact that work and text have the character of an event /…/ Post modern will have to be understood according of the paradox of the future [post] anterior [modo].” (Lyotard, Answering the Question: What is Postmodernism?, 46).

    Thus, postmodernism is not anti-modernism but rather an extreme realization of modernism (Welsch …). Postmodernism, Lyotard tells us, is the future hic et nunc , at the same time realizing that this is not possible. This notion is situated not far from Socialist Realism which wanted to present the future now – Boris Groys calls Socialist Realism an “aesthetics of non-being” (Groys 1988, 57), staging a radiant future that is not yet there. Socialist Realism as well as postmodernism in Lyotard’s definition seem to pose the question of representation – while Lyotard, however, restricts himself to the realm of the aesthetic, Socialist Realism embraced it all – Groys, again, refers to it as Gesamtkunstwerk Stalin , transforming the entire (socialist) society into a total work of art.

  2. Postmodernism is a sign of crisis - it is the effect of a generation of sons (and daughters) turning against the stabilities of their fathers. Instead of an orign we have only traces, instead of an authoritative authorial voice we have a dead author, instead of a literary tradition – an intertextual space. Everything seems to be in a flow and eclecticism is one of the main traits characterizing postmodern art, literature and architecture. Postmodern literature is defined as the effect of a cultural pessimism; in 1967 John Barth called contemporary literature “a literature of exhaustion” (Barth 1967). Only later did this pessimistic attitude change into a postmodernist playfulness.

  3. Postmodernism is connected to new technologies and one of its branches connects postmodernism and virtuality. Postmodern culture is a culture of*simulacra* . Here, again, one comes across the question of representation.

  4. Starting as a term in literary criticism, postmodernism was soon applied to many other areas such as architecture, sociology, philosophy and so on. (Welsch …); Welsch speaks of “radical plurality” of postmodernism. It also calls into question the division between high and low culture. When the literary critic Leslie Fiedler published his essay Cross the border – Close the Gap in Playboy magazine in 1969, he not only published a program for crossing the borders between low and high culture, but he also performed this crossing of the border by publishing his text in Playboy (Welsch 1997, 15). Architecture, where aesthetic changes became most radically visible (Jameson 2002, 63), “staged itself as a kind of aesthetic populism.” (ibid.) [1]

  5. Another important point was made by Lyotard from the philosophical point of view (1979 in La condition postmoderne ): postmodernism marks the end of the “great narrations”, of the grands récits which have dominated Western thought since Enlightenment. The end of the great narration, Lyotard states, sets man free.

I will now follow these threads – postmodernism as time-space, as a sign of crisis, a culture of simulacra , the “radical plurality” of postmodernism and the end of the grands récits – now in relation to Russian literature’s postmodernity and to the postcommunist condition. This means that I will observe postmodernism in Russia from two different perspectives: in relation to Soviet culture at a time when postmodernism began to flourish in the West (in the 1960s, 70s and 80s) and in relation to its post- twin, i.e. postcommunism.

1. Postmodernism as time-space

Postmodernism is time-space; chronologically trying to simultaneously jump forward and backward (post modernism – later and sooner than now) thus acquires a temporal-spatial dimension. The postmodern as well as the modern (or the avant-garde) is untimely; it is, as Thomas Docherty writes, “unhinged”, “out of joint.” (Doherty 2002, 15) Lyotard here follows the untimeliness of the avant-garde which proclaimed itself to be set on the future [2] , calling the postmodern a project of “re-writing modernity.” [3] This untimeliness of the avant-garde in the Soviet project of staging the future here and now lead to the Gesamtkunstwerk Stalin (Groys 1988) – Socialist Realism tried to present that which is not there. Socialist Realism, however, transformed the aesthetic project of the avant-garde into a social project on an aesthetic base, taking metaphors for literal signifiers.

What did Soviet writers in the 1960s, 70s and 80s do with this untimeliness that was directed into the future? They were writing about the present and against the radiant future; their heroes might have nightmares or hallucinations (as, for example, Venedikt Erofeyevs Venichka in Moskva – Petushki , 1970), but they were always here and now, often moving in circles and not getting anywhere. After the thaw in the 1960s and 1970s, Soviet writers wrote against being “unhinged” from time while their heroes were living in the Soviet Union in the present. The concept of a future, as we know it, surfaced around the 17th / 18th centuries.Until then, human time was measured in cycles (Hölscher 2002, 131f.); similarly, the dissident concept of time may be considered to be cyclic rather than linear.

The literary critic Olga Bogdanova in her book Postmodernizm v kontekste sovremennoj russkoj literatury states that postmodernism in Russia, like in the West, began in the 1960s. She names three founding texts for Russian postmodernism: Venedikt Yerofeyev’s playful Moskva – Petushki , Andrej Bitov’s intellectual, intertextual Pushkinskii dom , and Abram Terts’ metaliterature that took the form of an essay. Although some of the literary techniques may be similar to those of Western postmodernism, as for instance extensive intertextuality, I would nonetheless argue that the context is decidedly non-postmodernist. Postmodernism demands an anti-totalitarian context, an end of the grand récit, and while many people in Russia in the 1960s did not believe in the radiant future, the master narrative was still very vivid.

If Soviet literature in the 1960s and 70s concentrated on the present, postcommunism’s perspective is often directed toward the past, a nostalgic gaze back to pre-communist times. Svetlana Boym writes about the “perpetual love affair with Old Russia” (Boym 1994, 272), about a “nostalgic revival of the style and behavior of native Russian capitalism, from prerevolutionary times.” (265) While time is present in the cultural landscape, what however is decisive in the postcommunist context is space. After 1989 time is bound into an (often post-apocalyptic) space. While Soviet – and Socialist – space was strictly divided into an ‘inside’ and ‘outside’, into ‘friend’ and ‘enemy” (and, within the Soviet society, into a ‘conformmist’ and ‘dissident’ culture) before 1989, the opening of the borders has produced an open space; many of the novels take place in an in-between-space, in an indecisive interzone between reality and irreality. One example is Tatyana Tolstaya’s novel Kys’ (2000): The novel takes place after the apocalypse, after a nuclear catastrophy, the landscape is ground zero. Tolstaya returns to a mythic space, a stone-age before any knowledge, technology, art. The inhabitants of this atomic desert are deformed and they do not remember anything that happened before the catastrophe; they are stone-aged monsters. In her novel Tolstaya returns to a time before time, a space without borders; one thing (or one word) is similar to the other. Postapocalyptic space – and time – does not know any distinctions. The return to a (cyclic) past is a radical one.

Postcommunist landscapes are opened up, but not as a result of (Western) globalization. The postcommunist space has to be redefined. The spatial turn is especially obvious in literature from Eastern (Central) Europe – the authors literally pace (? study/scope out) the map in order to find out what country/place/space they belong to after the years under the Soviet regime. The landscape turns into a search for origins in order to make up for the loss of time, as prize winning novelist Andrzej Stasiuk from Poland writes in his On the way to Babadag (Jadąc do Babadag , 2005):

„Terra incognita między Radomiem i Sandomierzem. Niebo, drzewa, domy, ziemia - to wszystko mogło znajdować się gdziekolwiek indziej. Poruszałem się w przestrzeni, która nie miała żadnej historii, żadnyhc wartych wspomnienia dokonań. Byłem pierwszym człowiekiem gdzieś u stóp Gór Pieprzowych i wszystko zaczynało się od mojej obecności. Czas zaczynał płynąć, a rzeczy i krajobrazy zaczynały się starzeć dopiero w chwili, gdy dotykałem ich wzorkiem.” (Stasiuk 2004, 10f.)

Stasiuk himself moved from the center to the periphery, that is, from Warsaw to the border with Ukraine in order to be closer to the mythological center of Europe.

Postmodernism or even globalization have little or no effect on these texts – they may show a postmodernist eclecticism in their form but most of all they are concerned with the past, a return to a mythic time in an open space. And even if we look at novels which at first glance seem more postmodernist such as Vladimir Sorokin’s fantastic novel Goluboe salo , the novel is nonetheless set in the future somewhere between Russia and China. The only reason is to catapult the protagonists back into the past in order to rewrite history and create a European space. The postcommunist opening of space in East European literature is not postmodern and it is not a globalized space – the landscapes are archaic and empty in order to find a truer past than the 70 years of Soviet rule have allowed.

2. Postmodernism as a sign for crisis

It is obvious that the crisis was there, it marked la condition postmoderne as well as the post-communist condition . While the first occurred in the atmosphere of post-war discontent with hierarchies, authorities and truths, the latter was an effect of the end of a world-order that marked most of the 20th century. The effect – in both cases – is an eclecticism that does not accept an unquestioned truth.

A society that is built on the one and only truth, like the Soviet Union, runs the risk of generating counter-positions; in this case it was the literature and art of the so-called shestidesjatniki that set these counter-actions into action. Russian prose of the 1960s and 70s celebrates an aesthetics of eclecticism which may be called postmodernist, but they are also rooted in the cultural field of Socialist Realism. One example is Venedikt Yerofeyev’s Moskva-Petushki from 1970. The anti-hero Venichka, a drunkard, goes from Moscow to the village Petushki, drinking and talking to the other passengers on the elekrichka , the suburbian train. The action is interrupted by Venichkas hallucinations; he loses his sense for reality and sees angels or a Greek choir. The space in the novel is subdivided into the center of power (Moscow) and the anarchic, carnivalesque non-space of Venichka (Petushki), into order and chaos. One can interpret the text – which Bogdanova calls one of the founding texts of Russian postmodernism – from a postmodernist perspective. One could for example read it as a schizophrenic text. This interpretation would refer to the schizo-analysis that Deleuze and Guattari developed in their book on Anti-Oedipus in 1972, presenting a schizo-analysis of modern capitalist societies. For Deleuze and Guattari, the schizophrenic author is the ideal author. From this perspective, Yerofeyev’s novel would thus participate in postmodern aesthetics. One can, however, analyze the text from a carnivalistic perspective, positing it into the Russian critical tradition which started with Bakhtin’s book on Rabelais and found its continuation in the Moscow-Tartu school. Venichka, the anti-hero, is a holy fool turning the world upside down with his anti-social and anti-heroic behavior. Bakhtin wrote his book on the carnival within the context of the rigorous rules of Stalinist aesthetics in the 1930s. Against a closed space he set an open space, against terror he set laughter, against a dictator he set the fool-as-king. While postmodernism is a Western discourse that was taken over by or applied to Russian writers, carnival is a theory that travelled the other way, from East to West: Western thinkers, especially in the context of postcolonial studies, decontextualized Bakhtin’s concept of the carnival and used it for their purposes (e.g. Young 1995). [4]

3. Postmodernism and new technologies / virtuality

Since, as I already quoted at the beginning of my talk, the Russians may already always have been postmodernist because of their preference for an “aesthetics of non-being” (Groys), postmodern theories concerned with virtuality were especially successful in Russia. Svetlana Boym calls Baudrillard “the most popular postmodern theorist among contemporary Russian intellectuals” (Boym 1994, 220). The whole aesthetic of Socialist Realism, which in 1934 became the norm for all artists and writers in the Soviet Union, is based on the representation of reality as a vision, a “dream-world” (Susan Buck-Morss).

Socialist Realism experienced a serious blow in the 1960s when the generation of the so called shestidesjatiniki (generation of the 60s) started to produce conceptualist art (which is not the same as Western conceptual art). While in the West the generation of 1968 rebelled against their fathers in open public, the protest in the Soviet Union took place in the underground (андерграунд). [5] The Moscow conceptualists’ aesthetic was based on a false mimesis – they imitated the discourse of Socialist Realism laying bare that it was a discourse and not reality, essentially producing signifiers without the signified. Artists like Ilya Kabakov or Komar and Melamid mimicried the SR discourse in their pictures and artworks while writers like Vladimir Sorokin mimicried it in their literary texts: Kabakov confronts the text (signifier) with the picture (signified), thereby demonstrating a gap in the sign of Socialist Realism; Vladimir Sorokin imitates discourses, slightly distorting them and thus, laying bare the imitation. In his false copies he demonstrates that language, especially the language of (Socialist) Realism, is not reality but a simulacrum.

Kabakov’s picture Gastronom perfectly illustrates the obnazhenie priyoma-priyom (the laying-bare-of-the-technique-technique) (in Gastronom .?) It shows a crowd of people in a store trying to buy what is not there. The picture is covered by lists saying “Today for sale are bread, butter, cheese, fish” and so on, but the shelves are empty. The word is lying because nothing is for sale; we have the word but not the thing [illustration Kabakov]. The same was true for the slogans pasted all over Soviet cities, proclaiming the radiant future that was to be expected but which, as we know, would never come.

One literary star of virtual reality is Viktor Pelevin. Pelevin’s prose creates virtual worlds based on ideology (Omon Ra) , on mysticism (Chapaev i Pustota) and on pixels and drugs (Generation P ). In all his novels and short stories Pelevin basically tells and retells the same story, but each time he tells it differently. “All my life I have done nothing else but to hit the mirrored ball of an irreal world with my pen”, concludes the hero in his novel Chapaev i Pustota (1997). In each of his books Pelevin gives a different version of this irreal world: in Omon Ra (1991) he depicts the irreal world of Soviet ideology; in Life of the Insects (Жизнь насекомых ) he uses the aesthetic concept of metamorphosis in order to create (dis)order, in Chapayev i Pustota he is explicitly concerned with the question of reality and dream. The narrator-I in Pelevin’s texts is always on the move, is not one but many and gets confused by trying to find out what is real and what is not. Generation P (1999) takes place in the world of advertising and it turns out that not everybody who seems to exist does really exist. Politicians, for example, are made up of rumors and pixels; they are simulacra, copies without an original.

While Sorokin’s participation in the Russian tradition is obvious, Moscow conceptualist art is based on the aesthetics of Socialist Realism. Pelevin, who is seven years his junior seems more “Western” and more postmodern – but even Pelevin ha(?) modern. However, Pelevin also shows some traits which do not completely fit in with Western postmodernism. His prose has an esoteric bias that on the one hand reminds of the esoteric tradition especially strong in Russian modernism, on the other hand he seems to quote psychedelic experiments of the American beat generation of the 1960s.

Boris Groys, who –alluding to Lyotard’s la condition postmoderne – coined the term postcommunist condition, argues that communism only became real when it no longer existed: it is the end of communism, he writes, that transformed the vision into a reality (Groys 2005, 36).

4./5. Postmodernism as a cross-cultural concept, and: Postmodernism: the end of the master narrative

Soviet culture was a high culture – its aim was not to be entertaining but rather didactic. This holds especially true for literature, whereby the film industry was more entertaining, hoping to work on the masses. - In the 1940s attempts were made to create a “советский Голливуд”, a Soviet Hollywood, under the direction of Gosfilm-director Boris Shumyatsky. (z.B. Margolit 1995). Comedy was a popular genre of the “most important art“ as long as it was in vein with the official ideology. After a brief downturn (in the 1950s?), Soviet comedies became popular once again in the 1960s.

Literature, on the other hand, was considered to be part of high culture; dissident literature even more so than Soviet literature. Only in the 1960s, in the period of the so-called “thaw” in literature, did private life again begin to become a topic for literary texts. [6] A far reaching entertainment culture in Russia began to develop only with the demise of the Soviet Union. [7] At the moment that a low culture was being established, high culture could make use of it and play with it in a postmodernist sense. This can once again be observed in the case of Vladimir Sorokin. While the basis for his imitations and aesthetic destructions in the 1980s was the discourse of Socialist Realism or, as in the case of his novel Roman , classic Russian realism, when Sorokin wrote his successful novel Goluboe salo at the end of the 1990s*,* his intention was to write a “Russian bestseller” (русский бестсэллер).

Only during postcommunism was it possible, I would argue, to become eclectic and this is connected directly to my fifth and last point: the end of the master narrative. Only when the all-encompassing master narrative of the radiant communist future was no longer valid, was it possible to tell different stories narrating different things. The post-communist narrative freed itself from the one and only story that was either told or rebelled against. The first reaction to that political and artistic freedom in the early 1990s was a certain rigor, a stop in aesthetic creativity – once writers could write about everything they did not know what to write about anymore. Vladimir Sorokin staged this end of writing in his novel Roman (1994). After hundreds of pages of idyllic Realism that imitated the language and the scenery of the Realist novel (especially Turgenev) and slightly over-achieving this language, the protagonist of the novel that is homonymous with the title of the novel, Roman, starts destroying the language and the story with an ax. For another two hundred pages Roman slays every living soul around him; this slaying is copied by the language which in the end is also destroyed. The novel ends with the words “Роман застонал. Роман пошевелился. Роман вздрогнул. Роман дернулся. Роман пошевелил. Роман дернулся. Роман умер“ (Sorokin 1994, 398) - Roman died, which also means that the novel died. Sorokin does what he says, he talks about destruction and at the same time he himself destructs the language.

This eclecticism of Realist and post-Realist styles may be called postmodernist, but it is also the consequence of conceptualism. With the end of the Soviet discourse Moscow conceptualism lost the basis for its art; Sorokin consequently showed how art destroys itself.

Finally, I would like to quote one more voice on postcommunism and postmodernism and thus will bring one more term into the discussion: Mikhail Iampolskii, another Russian cultural critic who lives in the United States, considers contemporary Russian art and literature as kitsch. While conceptualist art, Iampolskii writes, was political (it was)directed against the master narrative as well as the master discourse, decontextualising and destructering it. In the 1990s post-Soviet art and literature also used the Soviet discourse, but they banalized it. The Soviet master plot and master discourse essentially became colonized by the mainstream. Modernism is no longer at issue here, what Russian postcommunist (postmodernist?) art is concerned with is communism, not modernism (Iampolskii 2005, 155). Here Iampolskii comes close to Groys’ position who claims that postcommunist taste is dictated by the market (Groys 2005, 46); kitsch as well is a product of the market. Postcommunism, one might conclude, goes global if it starts paying attention to the market.

My conclusion, however, is a bit different: I wanted to show that the colonization of the East by Western concepts – in this case: postmodernism – was not so easy, travelling concepts travel only with a loss in translation.


  • Barth, John 1967, The Literature of Exhaustion. In: The Atlantic . 1967. August (220/8), 29-34.
  • Bogdanova, O. 2004. Postmodernizm v kontekste sovremennoj russkoj literatury. (60-90-e gody XX veka – načalo XXI veka). Sanktpeterburg.
  • Boym, Svetlana 1994. Common Places. Mythologies of Everyday Life in Russia. Cambridge, London.
  • Docherty, Thomas 2002. Postmodernism: An Introduction. In: Postmodernism. A Reader. Ed. Thomas Docherty. New York, 1-31.
  • Epstein, Mikhail 1995. After the Future. The Paradoxes of Postmodernism and Con temporary Russian Culture. Amherst.
  • Groys, Boris 1988. Gesamtkunstwerk Stalin. Die gespaltene Kultur in der Sowjetunition. München.
  • Groys, Boris, 2005. Die postkommunistische Situation. In: Zurück aus der Zukunft. Osteuropäische Kulturen im Zeitalter des Postkommunismus . Ffm., 36-48.
  • Hölscher, Lucian 2002. Die Zukunft. In: Intervalle 6 . Die Zeit im Wandel der Zeit. (Hrsg.?). Kassel , 129-146.
  • Iampolski, Michail 2005. Die Gegenwart als Vergangenheit. In: Zurück aus der Zukunft. Osteuropäische Kulturen im Zeitalter des Postkommunismus . Frankfurt a.M., 153-167.
  • Lyotard, Jean-François 1993. Answering the Question: What is Postmodernism? In: Postmodernism. A Reader. Ed. Thomas Docherty. New York, 38-46.
  • Margolit, Evgenij 1999. Der Film unter Parteikontrolle. In: Ch. Engel (Ed.): Geschichte des sowjetischen und russischen Films . Stuttgart / Weimar, 68-108.
  • Sorokin, Vladimir 1994. Roman . Moskva.
  • Stasiuk, Andrzej 2004. Jadąc do Babadag . Wołowiec.
  • Welsch, Wolfgang 1997. Unsere postmoderne Moderne . Berlin. (5. Aufl.)
  • Young, Robert 1995. Colonial Desire. Hybridity in Theory, Culture and Race. London / New York.
[1]Jameson refers to Robert Venturi’s manifesto Learning from Las Vegas , that proclaims, he states , a “populist rhetoric” (Jameson 2002, 63).
[2]„The avant-garde“, Docherty writes, „used to legitimize itself precisely by being untimely and incomprehensible: a challenge to history and reason” (Docherty 2002, 16).
[3]Lyotard, Reécrire la modernité, in: L’Inhumain, Paris 1988, p. 33-34, quoted in Docherty 2002, 15.
[4]Bogdanova gives a detailed interpretation of Moskva – Petushki (2004, 37-93)
[5]See, e.g., Kabakov's memoirs, Neofitsial'naia zhizn' ...
[6]There are, however, very funny and entertaining texts of dissident authors – like, for example, Sergey Dovlatov -, but they could not be read by the normal Soviet reader, since they were part of an underground culture they had no access to.
[7]Here I do not speak about the broad entertainment industry of prerevolutionary times, of course, like the movies (melodramas), the balagany and so on.



Постмодернизм и postmodernism

Базовая оппозиция в настоящей статье – оппозиция между «казаться» и «называть» (seem, call). «I want to argue that not everything which seems postmodernist is what we usually call postmodernist». Автор последовательно демонстрирует, что то, что иным авторам (Ольге Богдановой) кажется постмодернизмом в российской литературе второй половины двадцатого века (речь идет о таких авторах, как Владимир Сорокин, Венедикт Ерофеев, Виктор Пелевин), не всегда совпадает с тем, что автор данной статьи (и некоторые иные авторы, на которых ссылается автор) называет постмодернизмом. Иными словами, постмодернизм не всегда = postmodernism.

Русский постмодернизм отличается от postmodernism, поскольку (приведу лишь несколько примеров):

  • у него иные отношения со временем и пространством (часто ностальгические, как у Татьяны Толстой или Венедикта Ерофеева)

  • иные отношения с виртуальной реальностью (виртуальные миры, например, у Виктора Пелевина, имеют большее сходство с мирами русского модернизма, нежели с мирами западного постмодернизма)

  • русский постмодернизм укоренен в контексте, отличном от postmodernism’a: это контекст, в котором живы большие нарративы.

    Несколько цитат из текста: «Несмотря на то, что некоторые литературные техники кажутся похожими на западные постмодернистские (например, интертекстуальность), я утверждаю, что, тем не менее, контекст (создания текстов) не постмодернистский». Постмодернизм требует антитоталитарного контекста, конца больших нарративов…

«(Тексты), казалось бы, эклектичны по форме, но они озабочены лишь прошлым <…> (или) укоренены в культурном поле соц.реализма». Например, Москва-Петушки Венедикта Ерофеева (70е годы). «Антигерой Веничка едет из Москвы до станции Петушки, он пьет и разговаривает с другими пассажирами электрички. Иногда питие и разговоры прерываются галлюцинациями антигероя – он теряет ощущение реальности, он видит ангелов... Пространство в тексте четко подразделяется на центральное (Москва) и архаичное, карнавальное нигде (Петушки), на порядок и хаос». Но карнавал – это не постмодерн, это слово с иной судьбой и иным маршрутом движения – с Востока на Запад.

И основной вывод автора таков: Когда postmodernism транспортировали в Восточную Европу, он стал постмодернизмом – поскольку на него оказал воздействие посткоммунизм.

Иными словами, слово, «уехавшее» из своего оригинального контекста применения, меняет смысл под воздействием нового контекста. Это можно дополнительно теоретически фундировать, обратившись к аналитической философии, в частности, к работам Джона Серля, который писал, что смысл высказывания может быть раскрыт лишь при условии рассмотрения его на фоне обусловленных культурой допущений (о должном и недолжном, правильном и неправильном) и практик. Иначе говоря, понимание любого высказывания предполагает неявную отсылку к массиву знаний о том, как «устроен» мир. Фоновые практики же – это просто повседневные практики деятельности, обращения с предметами. (Волков) «Например, для того, чтобы понять простую фразу "он подстриг траву", необходимо знать достаточно много о газонах, газонокосилках, эстетике приусадебного участка с определенной геометрией, высотой травы, о том, в каком виде его принято содержать. Это знание выступает условием осмысленности высказывания, но не будучи представленным в самом высказывании, оно лишь подразумевается. Понятно, что в рамках культуры, где газоны не стригут, а траву косят косами на корм скоту - а именно это будет составлять другие фоновые практики - фраза "он подстриг траву" будет либо понята по-другому (то есть условия истинности будут другими), либо вообще бессмысленна».

Посткоммунизм, советский опыт, русский модернизм, соц. Реализм, идеология, практики обращения со словами и вещами – это тот фон, оказавшись на котором слово postmodernism меняет смысл, превращаясь в постмодернизм.

Но не происходит ли то же самое с другими словами? С «модернизмом» и «культурой», «обществом» и «традицией» И, если да, то возникает вопрос: а возможен ли правильный перевод?

См, например: Searle J. "The Background of Meaning" // Speech Act Theory and Pragmatics., Ed. by J. Searle et al., Dortrecht, 1980, с. 227.