Clothing the Body of Work: Edward Limonov and the Author as Tailor

Lisa Ryoko Wakamiya, Florida State University

Prominent features of Eduard Limonov's biographical legend include his brief employment as a tailor and his interest in fashion, both of which emerge as biographical and literary facts during Limonov's creative period. By his own account, Limonov taught himself to sew to earn a living early in his literary career; in time, sewing became detached from the poet's quotidian existence and formed an interpretive discourse, creating a union between the cloth, the poet's body, and his writing.

The persona of Limonov the tailor is exhibited in Limonov's poetry, autobiographical prose, and extraliterary genres such as photographs and interviews. Limonov's comprehensive approach to the creation and promotion of authorial image is a consistent element of his artistic agenda: whether emerging from the provinces to clothe himself in his self-tailored "coat of the national hero" and proclaim his literary presence, or shunning the ÈmigrÈ community and claiming no literary influences only to launch the phenomenon of Eto ja--Edichka, Limonov presented himself as a self-fashioned iconoclast. My presentation will examine Limonov's sartorial expression as a vehicle that allows the author to project authorial images based on the rejection of tradition and celebration of low and transitory elements of culture, yet maintain an underlying recourse to the past.

In the tradition of the Modernist authors who recognized fashion as an expression of the fleeting and fragmentary character of modern life, Limonov continually created identities that characterized particular periods in his literary career. The persona of the author as tailor, which appears in each arena of Limonov's creative production until his departure from literature in 1991, unifies his work and the segments of his heterogeneous writerly identity. It also, in Modernist fashion, leads Limonov to frequently cite the commercial success of his works as a measure of his achievements as a writer, thus commodifying his creative production.

Limonov denies any dependence on previous literary models, and critical comparisons of Limonov with a wildly diverse range of authors complicate the issue of literary influence. However, in keeping with Roland Barthes's assertion that fashion "is too serious and too frivolous at the same time," Limonov's approach appears a straightforward effort to uncover both the fundamental and trivial aspects of self-definition. Having chosen the apparently minor mediums of fashion and extraliterary genres as arenas for artistic creation, Limonov imbues them with all the characteristics necessary to define his authorial image and valorize life over art. As an author who claims to eschew eternity in favor of the instant, Limonov, in the tradition of MallarmÈ, Huysmans, and others, focuses on fashion as a metaphor capable of evoking transitory personae and the mutable character of the life and era he attempts to capture in his work.