Russian Postmodernism: New Perspectives on Post-Soviet Culture

By Mikhail Epstein; Alexander Genis et al. | Go to book overview

Chapter 3
PERESTROIKA AS A SHIFT IN LITERARY PARADIGM

Alexander Genis


A Lost Generation

During the unsettling period associated with perestroika, Russian literature was engaged in a struggle for survival in which it sought a compromise between the past and the future. Even so it actually stood still, afraid to turn back and equally unable to trust in future perspectives. In this transitional condition, Soviet-Russian literature lost both of its distinguishing features, ceasing to be either Russian or Soviet.

All of its genres degenerated into journalism. The life of a literary work came to be measured not in terms of generations, but in terms of months, weeks, and even days. The kings of literary perestroika reigned but for an hour: The Sad Detective by Victor Astafeev, Fire by Valentin Rasputin , The Execution Block by Chingiz Aitmatov, The Children of the Arbat by Anatoli Rybakov. The most distinguishing common feature of these works is their date of publication (the late 1980s).

The literature of glasnost could not have had any other complexion, since glasnost itself was an artificial extension of the thaw of the 1960s, which had allowed the half-said to come to full expression. The ontogeneric relationship of perestroika to the thaw

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