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Figures of Memory and Forgetting in Andrej Bitov's Prose

Postmodernism and the Quest for History


Sven Spieker

The question of postmodernism in Soviet literature during the «period of stagnation» is closely linked to the problem of history and its representation. In Andrej Bitov's prose, the intellectual's ambition to transcend the Stalinist past in order to reenter history at a point prior to trauma is mostly unsuccessful. Bitov's prose may be seen as a demonstration of the failure of modernist and pre-modernist models of mnemonic representation in the postmodern context of the Soviet Union. His characters' efforts to realign themselves with the modernist avantgarde routinely meet with the impossibility of establishing any viable metapositions vis-à-vis official culture and its ideology. The present study investigates the psychological, aesthetic, and epistemological implications of Bitov's postmodern treatment of memory.
Contents: Postmodernism in the Soviet Union - History and its representation in modernist, socialist realist, and postmodern aesthetics - Different models of mnemonic representation and their applicability in the Soviet context - Andrej Bitov as a postmodernist - Bitov's attitude towards modernism and socialist realism.