Magazine article World Literature Today

Limonov

Magazine article World Literature Today

Limonov

Article excerpt

MISCELLANEOUS Emmanuel Carrère. Limonov. Paris. P.O.L. 2011. ISBN 9782818014059

The Prix Théophraste-Renaudot is one of the five major literary prizes in France, second only to the Prix Goncourt in terms of the prestige it confers. Created in 1926, the Renaudot is typically awarded to a novel. This year marks an exception, because the prize went to Emmanuel Carrère for Limonov. The latter is decidedly not a novel (though it makes many gestures in the direction of the novel); rather, it is a biography. The fact that it should win the Renaudot testifies to how embattled the very idea of the novel is on the contemporary cultural horizon, where in recent years that form has been influenced in key ways by genres once imagined to be quite distinct from it: biography, autobiography, testimony, travel writing, historiography, journalism, and so forth.

Carrère's book focuses on the life of Eduard Limonov, and indeed a more "novelistic" life could hardly be imagined. Born in the Russian provinces in 1943, he was by turns a hooligan, a homeless poet, an exile, a majordomo to a New York billionaire, a soldier in dubious combat, an avant-garde memoirist, an unrepentant Stalinist, a political prisoner, a dissident among dissidents, and the founder of the National Bolshevik Party. …

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