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Mastering Chaos

The Metafictional Worlds of Evgeny Popov

Jeremy Morris

«This is an interesting and important book, the first attempt to encapsulate the highly idiosyncratic œuvre and career of Evgeny Popov, a major and controversial figure in the late Soviet and post-Soviet literary landscape.» (Michael Pushkin, University of Birmingham)
«Morris is excellent in his treatment of the writer’s attitude towards the past and history; and he differentiates between Popov’s more nuanced and ambiguous view of the Soviet experiment and those writers, likewise liberals, who have adopted a ‘confessional’ stance.» (Robert Porter, University of Bristol)
«A broad contextualization of the works of this important Russian author.» (Christine Engel, University of Innsbruck)
This is the first book devoted to the writings of Evgeny Popov (born 1946), a major and controversial figure in the late Soviet and post-Soviet literary landscape. The author uses a wide range of primary and secondary sources, many of them in Russian, alongside detailed analysis of the novels and stories themselves. The introduction charts the course of Popov’s personal and professional biography, including major turning points such as the Metropole affair of 1979. A chapter on critical contexts provides a clear account of the history of Popov’s reception. Other chapters focus on the first collection of short stories and the complexities of narrative voice, the concept of the ‘non-elucidatory principle’ at the heart of Popov’s poetics, and the short story cycles in Metropole and Catalogue, from the late 1970s and early 1980s. Finally the author addresses the key phenomenon of Popov’s self-fictionalization in both his shorter and longer works up to the present day.


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From 1999 to 2003 I collected material about Evgeny Anatol’evich Popov and his work at Sussex University. In visits to Moscow I was able to meet Popov, who provided me with clarifications regarding his work, particularly the timeline for his short-story writing. I should like to thank him, but also his Russian and non-Russian readers who have shared their insights into his writing. In particular I would like to thank Masha Garibyan, who, as a twelve-year-old in Moscow in the ‘bad old days’ of 1986, when Popov was persona non grata, appreciated his story of the beer-seeking ‘Quiet Evstaf ’ev and the Homo Futurum’ as a work of comic genius in a sea of insipid contributions to the journal Iunost’. I am also deeply in the debt of Viktoria Lialina and Nikolai Belobragin for their patient explanations of the Soviet context of the work. I should also like to thank Sally Dalton-Brown, Birgit Beumers, Robin Milner-Gulland and, particularly, Christine Engel, Robert Porter and Mike Pushkin for their scholarly support and guidance.

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