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This article is taken from PN Review 193, Volume 36 Number 5, May - June 2010.

An Abandoned Harvest: Literature in the New Russia Geoffrey Heptonstall

Petrovich, with its eponymous hero, is written for a new century on an old theme. Petrovich is someone who wishes to be left alone. He is a familiar type in Russian literature, the genially nonconforming parasite. Waking daily to the sound of the Soviet national anthem is a constant irritation. Even in childhood he acknowledges his preferred condition of the internal émigré. His protest is not against a particular society, but against the idea of society. He will never form a plan for a better society; he simply wants to be left alone to dream. His rebellion at school is a dirty and shaming one which he sees as a triumph against decency and the social order it represents. Petrovich is an anti-hero, someone we may not wish to meet, but a character we find engaging on the printed page.

Oleg Zaionchkovsky is a new writer of the new Russia, although he feels close to the classical Russian tradition. Petrovich (2008), his second book, is well-regarded at home, but untranslated (except for a few tantalising fragments). Those fragments are sufficient to suggest that here is indeed a work capable of measuring up to a tradition, and capable of doing so in response to the currency of the times. There are other writers of his generation whose work is barely known beyond Russian culture, though these writers are celebrated nationally. Little is available in the West. What has been translated and published in the West suggests that a ...


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