Academic journal article Science Fiction Film and Television

The Scent of a Former Life: The Czech Adaptation of the Strugatskiis' Story the Kid

Academic journal article Science Fiction Film and Television

The Scent of a Former Life: The Czech Adaptation of the Strugatskiis' Story the Kid

Article excerpt

The Strugatskiis and new Russian conservatism

Since the 2000s, the works of Arkadii and Boris Strugatskii have become a focus of attention for neoconservative circles in the intellectual and political elite of contemporary Russia.1 The ongoing process of reinterpretation of the Strugatskii brothers' legacy, from this conservative utopian viewpoint, radically differs from both their official Soviet reception and the view of the Strugatskiis as critics of the Soviet modernisation project, which has become increasingly popular since perestroika. The Strugatskiis' novella Malysh (The Kid; 1971) is a particularly apposite text for testing the validity of the current neoconservative reappraisal of the work, since its title character's posthuman (but also suspiciously post-mortem) qualities simultaneously exemplify and challenge Russian utopian thinking about humanity's biological future. This article examines both the original novella Malysh and its subsequent film adaptations, principally Irena Pavlásková's Nesmluvená setkání (Unexpected Encounters; Czech Republic 1994), from the neo-utopian perspective. Before analysing these versions of Malysh, I will discuss the phenomenon of post-Soviet conservative sf and the reception of the Strugatskiis' legacy in the context of early twentyfirst-century political conservatism.

Post-Soviet sf is rarely studied,2 although the genre itself has a strong influence on public opinion, moulding the collective imagination and offering some solutions to questions of national identity. First and foremost, in contemporary Russia sf is extremely politicised and should be viewed as one of the fully functional politico-technological conservative projects rather than as a genre (Volodikhin; Kovalev 'Rossiiskaia'). If the liberal literary establishment presents mostly dystopian manifests (e.g., Vladimir Sorokin's 2006 Den' oprichnika (The Day of the Oprichnik)) the less celebrated authors of sf promote nationalist and imperial ideas, turning to the Russian utopian tradition (e.g., Mikhail Iur'ev's 2006 novel Tret' ia imperiia: Rossiia, kotoraia dolzhna byt' (The Third Empire: Russia As It Should Be)). Several sf writers are also ideologists of the nationalist and conservative wing, for example, Kirill Benediktov, Konstantin Krylov (writing under the pseudonym of Mikhail Kharitonov), Dmitrii Volodikhin, Mikhail Iur'ev, Sergei Luk'ianenko and Sergei Pereslegin. They work as journalists for leading conservative newspapers, such as Izvestiia and Vzgliad, and feature on such Internet portals as the neoconservative Terra America and Russkaia ideia.

Hybrid forms of sf, including so-called 'sacral science fiction', are also popular. Here futurology meets Christian mysticism and Orthodoxy (Moskvin). Taking into account the growing authoritarianism of the Russian Orthodox Church, this genre becomes a forum for free theological creation: 'Today science fiction openly demonstrates its spiritual function, interpreting in literary form the questions of metaphysics, cognitive theory, philosophical anthropology and general theology, political and moral philosophy' (Denisov and Militarev).3

In the 1990s, sf became a testing ground for various nationalist conservative projects. It is not an exaggeration to claim that during the last twenty years a Russian school of 'imperial science fiction' has formed: the literaryphilosophical group 'Bastion' (Dmitrii Volodikhin and others) and 'The Union of Neofundamentalists' in St Petersburg (Pavel Krusanov, Alexandr Sekatskii and others). Representatives of this school regard the Strugatskiis as creators of politico-philosophical manifestos, often to the detriment of the literary value of their legacy (Vinnikov). Well-known figures of the 'political generation' of the 2000s, including Mezhuev, Pereslegin and Volodikhin, reject the usual and, to their mind, superficial liberal interpretation of the Strugatskii brothers' legacy as anti-Soviet. They prefer to focus on its metaphysical aspects. …

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