Contextualizing Transition: Interviews with Contemporary Russian Writers and Critics

Article excerpt

Serafima Roll, ed. Contextualizing Transition: Interviews with Contemporary Russian Writers and Critics. Middlebury Studies in Russian Language and Literature, Vol. 16. New York: Peter Lang, 1998. x, 182 pp. Illustrations. $43.95, cloth.

Serafima Roll's book is comprised of interviews with three critics and five contemporary writers. The critics include the political commentator and publisher of the journal The Herald of New Literature Mikhail Berg, alternative literature critic Oleg Dark, and Literaturnaia Gazeta contributor Viacheslav Kuritsyn. The writers are Tatiana Tolstaia, Victor Erofeev, Vladimir Sorokin, Valeriia Narbikova, Egor Radlov and Igor larkevich.

In the introductory section, Roll provides a brief commentary on the objectives of the study, and discusses the interview as a genre in itself As well as the interviewing process. It also includes the author's personal perspective on Russian reality and culture in the transitional period of the 1990s. The more extensive concluding section provides a synoptic overview of the most recent tendencies in contemporary Russian literature and briefly discusses several important issues such as Russian "alternative" or "other" prose, feminine and masculine subjectivity, or Russian post-modern culture and its similarities with and differences from Western post-modernism. The book also includes a "Notes on Contributors" section and photographs of all participants.

All of the interviews were conducted between 1993 and 1995, a period marked by dynamic transitional processes in Russian politics, society, economics and culture. During this period, the value and validity of previously established cultural traditions and practices, in particular that of Socialist Realism, were questioned, while new and alternative trends and communication forms were emphatically forcing their way into public usage, acceptance, and recognition. The new literature accompanying these changes dealt with issues and topics, which were previously considered as taboos and transgressions, revealing the naked truth about the human body and corporeal existence, as in works by Iarkevich, Radlov, and Narbikova. …