Enjoy the Gap: Pelevin's Appropriation of Aksenov's Language in Generation P

Christopher Hubert, University of Virginia

My goal in this paper will be to examine the manner in which Viktor Pelevin draws on the ideas and themes of Vasilij Aksenov (Vassily Aksyonov) in his 1999 novel. My main focus will be Pelevin's use of advertising language, which is also employed by Aksenov in his 1989 autobiographical work In Search of Melancholy Baby. Some of the differences in each author's use of this technique are clear; Aksenov often utilizes advertising slogans for comic effect, reflecting the absurdity of his own situation as an exile, being forced to think (and write) as an American. Pelevin, by contrast, attempts to translate and reinterpret advertising copy for a Russian audience; his protagonist Tatarskij often transliterates English slogans into Russian puns. For Aksenov, advertising is absurd and alien, unrecognizable to him and therefore to the reader, since Aksenov's goal is for the reader to share in his exile, to participate in a non-Russian world. Pelevin sees in advertising a form of communication that strives to reach as wide an audience as possible by providing an open message which can be filled in by each potential audience member.

This difference in point of view illustrates how these two authors view the role of literature in Russia in their respective times; there has been a shift from a didactic form that relies on a collective reader response to a more polysemantic text. The attitudes of these two authors towards advertising can be extended to include the relationship of mass media to literature, and is especially pertinent in a culture where the roles of mass media and literature have often overlapped. Pelevin's work shares Aksenov's spirit yet the message is purposefully open-ended because true reader response is now necessary in order to create revolutionary thought. This paper will examine Pelevin's reworking of the role of the author by adjusting the techniques of Aksenov to serve the same effect in post-Soviet Russia.