Limonov: Epatage as the (Meta)Literary Device

Eduard Limonov (b. 1943) remains one of the most controversial figures in Russia today. From a minor samizdat poet of the early seventies to a best-selling author and a leader of the National-Bol′ševik party in the nineties, the Limonov phenomenon has drawn varied interpretations (Matich, Titunik, Smirnov, Zholkovsky, Beraha, Ryan-Hayes). None of these interpretations, however, has explored Limonov’s participation in the Moscow avant-garde group Konkret whose founders and members (Baxčanjan, Sapgir, and others) promoted the aesthetics of the Russian futurists and Oberiu. When examined in the context of Konkret’s literary aspirations, Limonov’s best works (Russkoe, Èto ja—Èdička, and Dnevnik neudačnika) exhibit systematic reliance on the group’s distinguishing feature: epatage. By 1974, this principle acquires a metaliterary reality as can be seen in Limonov’s conflation of biographical and fictional narratives in the New York and the Xar′kov trilogies. Finally, Limonov’s epatage of the last decade is most effectively expressed in cultivating and celebrating a plurality of public identities—an ultra-nationalist, a bisexual, a bohemian, a male chauvinist, and more.