Limonov Against Picaro: Eddie's Heroic Defeat

Alexei Pavlenko, Colorado College

Limonov's It's me, Eddie, is shaped by the spatial binary of high and low which consistently corresponds to the moral lessons of the novel (Smirnov, Matich). The meaning of the text is based on the coordination between the spatial and the moral axes. This coordination, however, reveals the author's struggle to frame his novel as a species of high tragedy and shunning the low genre of the Picaresque. The source of Eddie's (the protagonist's) literary vitality is found in the liminal Picaresque space (Simmons) in between the genres as well as in between the intended, authorial meaning and the one produced by the text. The latter meaning comes through at various levels of the novel the structural, the semantic, and the psychological.

The moral binary is effectively realized in the fictional space of the novel. Thus Eddie both introduces himself and signs off from the elevation of the highest story of his hotel. His tone alternates between gently patronizing [quote undecipherable] and offensive [quote undecipherable]. Eddie keeps returning to his high ground and the imperative mode. The book begins and ends in the same spot in space and time the same "lofty occupation" of the balcony, on the same rainy Saturday in October of 1976. In this way the first chapter and the epilogue contrast with the body of Eddie's peregrinations, chapters two through thirteen; these take place below, on the streets of New York where Eddie methodically records not only his movement in space but also in time.

The gap between the high moral ground of the first chapter and the beginning of the story proper a Picaresque like narrative of Eddie's adventures is clearly marked. As pointed out by Matich, the title of the first chapter, "[quote undecipherable]", refers the reader to Dostoevsky. However, second chapter's title, "[quote undecipherable]" is just as significant: it marks Eddie's foray into the picaresque a descent from the high and fixed point of moral outrage to the liminal space of low life, "a meaningless process." The word "busboy" is particularly revealing here, since the older meaning of "a picaro" is "a scullion," that is "a servant employed to do menial kitchen tasks" (Webster's II). Also, this is the only chapter title that mirrors and defies the title of the novel. Thus if "I" is now equated to a busboy, than the original title acquires a significant connotation It's a Busboy, Eddie. This other, picaresque, meaning frustrates the apparent authorial intention of "Eto ja Edichka". The assertion of "Eto ja Edichka" resonates with Eddie's insistence that "[quotes undecipherable]." Thus while the title of the book seems to proclaim Eddie's heroic loyalty to his ideals that is in the face of universal disintegration I'm still what I've always been the opposite meaning, emerging from the picaresque story from the chapters two to thirteen, de stabilizes the apparent loftiness of the original claim.

This struggle between the high and the low, the fixed and the fluid can also be observed in the particular pattern of Eddie's relationship to the other characters as well as to the reader. This pattern consists of three stages: 1) Eddie's desire to engage or integrate, 2) the engagement/integration and 3) rejection/escape.