Silent Author (Representation of the Artist in Contemporary Russian Fiction)

Anna Brodsky, Washington and Lee University

My presentation will address some portraits of the artist in Russian post-war literature. Specifically, I will consider portraits of non-writing writers in the prose of such writers as Bitov, E. Popov, and Makanin. Notwithstanding the fact that they don't write, these characters are confident of the importance of their calling and sure about their superiority to non-artists. These portraits reflect important trends in Russian society. They may seem to be symptomatic of the deep skepticism toward authority of any kind (including artistic authority) a trend familiar in Western society (cf. the celebrations by Foucault and Barth of the death of the author). More deeply, though, these portraits reflect the persisting romance with hierarchy in Russia: non-writing writers want the title, rank and exalted status of "writer" but excuse themselves from the actual task of writing.