Russian Postmodernism: New Perspectives on Post-Soviet Culture

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

Chapter 15
ARCHAIC POSTMODERNISM The Aesthetics of Andrei Sinyavsky

Alexander Genis

The prophetic character of Andrei Sinyavsky's essay on socialist realism--What Is Socialist Realism--has become apparent only now, after the end of Soviet civilization. Before then, the question mark that the author consciously omitted from the title rang out as an affront to the regime. Now however, when people have stopped expecting an answer to the implied question, it has become possible to introduce some poetic license into the problem and ask in the conditional perfect: What could socialist realism have become?

The change of mood from the indicative to the conditional endows this text, written long ago, at the end of the 1950s, with a constructive dimension relevant to the present. Indeed, because history has deprived the author of his antagonist, we are entitled to seek in Sinyavsky's text not only an aesthetic summary of a past era of Russian culture, but sign posts pointing to a new art.

What gave this essay its innovative character was not so much its content as its method of investigation. While purporting to analyze socialist realism, the essay in fact framed the whole of Soviet civilization. While performing this exercise the author of necessity stood

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