Intertextual Overkill: Sinjavskij’s Metafiction

Satire may lead to moral pronouncements. In Andrej Sinjavskij’s writing it leads to metafiction, especially in its gravitation toward play and display (Griffin, 71). In Sinjavskij’s intertextual excesses, satire is carried out in layers of discourse where literary conventions are exposed for what they are. While telling a story, Sinjavskij flaunts the writer’s consciousness, pointing to artifice, parading the shared territory of “fiction” and “reality.” Not unlike Nabokov, he makes a puzzle of this territory, forcing the reader to question what lies inside and outside of “fiction.” Using fantasy as an alternate world, he plays an obvious fabrication against the historical events of his day. In the process he shows that this juncture has much in common with Stalin’s world, that is, with fiction and “reality” (Sinjavskij, 2, 37). In the following study I would like to discuss the intertextual features of Sinjavskij’s writing, exploring further how play and display not only result in parody, but also in constructing and deconstructing illusions, unmasking the foundation of characters and, in general, the conventions of realism.

Sinjavskij’s satire develops from Juvenalian and Horatian modes to Menippean, that is, from praise and blame to witty innuendo, deploying philosophy and fantasy together with historical allusions and a range of voices. What appears to be a fragmented world is actually a patchwork of texts, some of which are introduced for their own sake, others of which are reframed or turned upside down. To problematize the source and the center of discourse, Sinjavskij introduces “Terc,” who seems to exist both inside and outside the text. In “The Tenants” he enters the text, acting “Tercian,” befriending a character who seems to represent Sinjavskij. In “The Makepeace Experiment” he adopts another “Tercian” pose, this time playing the part of a narrator who is at odds with another narrator, arguing about the presence of still another narrator on a higher plane. This Pirandellist intertextual play and display amounts not only to a peek at the “back stage” of writing, but also at ontological and epistemological clowning.

Sinjavskij’s flat characters (party officials, Jewish intellectuals, KGB operatives, writers, deceivers and outsiders) are in full service to parody. Moreover, they are indices to well-known texts in the media, on stage, in the streets—the subjects of stories both printed and told. They make up true “community” baggage, the contents of which Sinjavskij needs in order to mark a recognizeable satiric trail through fantastic circumstances. Such indicies, of course, are no different from Sinjavskij’s numerous citations and allusions to authors (Puškin, Gogol′, Lermontov, Dostoevskij, Majakovskij, Gor′kij), wherein he relies on the reader to sense “givens,” and, more important, to understand that reality is more like a catalogue of texts rather than a canon.

After establishing the bearing of Sinjavskij’s metafiction, I want to turn to Good Night, a novel that has been taken at face value rather than metafictional value. Unlike Sinjavskij’s stories, which pit the fantastic against the everyday, this “novel” exhibits the conventions of a memoir. But while Sinjavskij fashions a “sincere” narrative tone, he also lays in blatent intertextual material such as a play, letters, several poems, folk tales, historical tracts, dialogues and other conventions of illustration and dramatization. Above all, he demonstrates a play of autobiographical fiction (characteristic of his pre-prison writing) and fictional autobiography (characteristic of his post-prison writing), as if creating a text that hesitates between fiction and confession. In this mosaic of mitigation, Sinjavskij provides another form of “in-betweeness” for his wit, permitting the reader to see that candor and camouflage may come from the same shed.