From Olga Arbenina to Olga Arbyelina: Subtexts from the Silver Age

Carol R. Ueland, Drew University

Despite the fact that his novel, The Crime of Olga Arbyelina, is written in French, AndrČ Makine's cultural orientation in the work is primarily Russian. Unlike his earlier novels, whose plots center primarily around the Soviet experience, Makine's novel focuses on the life of the Russian emigre community in France after the revolution. In his composite approach to character and events, Makine draws on details from the lives and works of figures from Russian Silver Age culture, beginning with Tolstoy. (Elsewhere I have explored the links between this novel and Anna Karenina.) This paper will explore Makine's use of subtexts from the period, ranging from the poetic works of Anna Axmatova to the biographies of Silver Age figures such as her close friend and "double," Ol'ga Arbenina. Allusions to the lives and works of Russian emigre authors in France such as Bunin, Nabokov and others make up other strata of the novel. I will argue that Makine's novel draws not only on specific allusions to Silver Age culture but that his view of Russian history as presented in the novel is indebted to the views of history expounded by seminal figures of the period.