Imperial Knowledge: Russian Literature and Colonialism

By Ewa M. Thompson | Go to book overview

so that the remainder (if only a minority) could live in a new, splendid, and democratic Russia.19 While it goes without saying that she did not literally advocate shooting workers, her rhetoric smacked of the old Russian extremism that goes back to Dmitrii Pisarev, Sergei Nechaev (especially the Catechism of the Revolutionary, written in 1869), and Lenin. This and other shrill texts have not endeared Novodvorskaia to any political group, and her political and intellectual future is uncertain.

Writers like Petrushevskaia and (with the above caveats) Novodvorskaia suggest that conquering and holding on to foreign lands for Moscow's benefit has to be abandoned. The Russian people cannot sustain it any longer. Indeed, they themselves have split into Russia proper and the "white colonies" of Siberia and the Far East. Straddling Europe and Asia, the Federation comprises too many ethnic and territorial groups, who are heirs to too many diverse histories, cultures, economies, memories, and interests. No male Russian writer has ever dared to say that the "Russian" Federation is too vast and diverse to be manageable under one government located in Moscow. Writing in opposition to the empire, undoing its imaginative command, as Petrushevskaia has done, is part of the slippage of confidence within a Federation that has never been entirely sure of its identity. The women writers' voices are too feeble to make an instant difference in a society that has been dominated by male voices, a society that does not yet fully want to discover its colonialist dimension. Postcolonial consciousness still has a long way to go in Russia. But permission to narrate has been obtained, or rather wrenched, from the literary establishment by "those quintessential Others," Russian women writers. By showing how the empire has failed women, Liudmila Petrushevskaia, in particular, deserves to be called the first postcolonial Russian writer.


NOTES
1.
P. Barr, The Memsahibs: The Women of Victorian India ( London: Secker & Warburg, 1976).
2.
Catriona Kelly, A History of Russian Women's Writing, 1820-1992 ( Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1994).
3.
Helena Goscilo, "Paradigm Lost? Contemporary Women's Fiction", in Women Writers in Russian Literature, edited by Toby W. Clyman and Diana Greene ( Westport, CT and London: Greenwood Press, 1994), 220.
4.
Valeriia Novodvorskaia, "Throw Everything Overboard That Smells of Blood", Novoe vremia, September 1996. Translated by Steven Clancy, Sarmatian Review, 17, no. 3 ( September 1997), 480. Subsequent quotations are taken from this translation.
5.
Russia Today, 28 July 1998.
6.
Helena Goscilo, The Explosive World of Tatyana N. Tolstaya's Fiction (Armonk, NY: M. E. Sharpe, 1996).
7.
"Teper' ona kak by dlia menia umerla, a mozhet byt', ona i na samom dele umerla, khotia za etot mesiats nikogo v nashem dome ne khoronili". Liudmila Petrushevskaia , Sobranie sochinenii, vol. 1 (Khar'kov and Moscow: Folio and TKO Ast, 1996), 7. Subsequent quotations are from this edition.
8.
Agence France-Presse, 29 November 1998.

-221-

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Imperial Knowledge: Russian Literature and Colonialism
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Acknowledgment vii
  • Introduction: - Nationalism, Colonialism, Identity 1
  • Notes 12
  • 1 - The Problem 15
  • Notes 47
  • 2 - Engendering Empire 53
  • Notes 81
  • 3 - The Consolidating Vision: War and Peace As the New Core Myth Of Russian Nationhood 85
  • Notes 106
  • 4 - The Central Asian Narrative In Russian Letters 109
  • Notes 125
  • 5 - Imperial Desire In the Late Soviet Period 129
  • Notes 150
  • 6 - Scholarship and Empire 153
  • Notes 193
  • 7 - Deconstructing Empire: Liudmila Petrushevskaia 199
  • Notes 221
  • Selected Bibliography 223
  • Index 233
  • About the Author *
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