Criticism as a Source of Inspiration: On Limonov's Narrative Strategy

Andrei Rogatchevski, University of Glasgow

Just as many authors do, Eduard Limonov avidly follows and even collects reviews of, and academic publications about, his own works. What appears to be less common is his use of this critique (printed or oral) as a source of inspiration. Limonov's private correspondence helps us to establish, for instance, that the final scene in the novel Istorija ego slugi (when the housekeeper of the title contemplates whether or not to kill the United Nations Secretary General, whose private reception he observes through the telegraphic sights of an automatic rifle, stuck to the rear window of the house of his millionaire boss) was prompted by a liberal American publisher, who put it to Limonov that it would be easier to find a market for his first novel,Èto ja--Èdichka, if its hero would resort to political violence at the end (see Limonov's letter to Nikolaj Bokov of 30 September 1979 in the Leeds Russian Archive); and his short story "Amerikanskij redaktor" appeared as a reaction against Ellendea Proffer's editorial suggestions on how to improve the manuscript version of Istorija ego slugi (then known as V brjukhe zverja) prior to its intended publication in the Ardis publishing house (see Limonov's letter to Aleksej Cvetkov of 26 November 1981 in Historisches Archiv, Forschungsstelle Osteuropa an Universitäaut;t Bremen).

Further examples of such an approach include: the short story "Dvojnik" as a response to the suggested link between Èto ja--Èdichka and the Greek myth about Narcissus (following the observations made in Bokov 1979 and possibly in Smirnov 1983); the novel Podrostok Savenko as an elaboration on a disparaging remark about Limonov's earlier book Dnevnik neudachnika, ili Sekretnaja tetrad' ("a portrait of the bandit as a young man", Efimov 1978); the short story "Mutant" as a polemic with an unfavorable review of Palach, entitled "Inoplanetjanin Limonov" (Lemxin 1987); the novel Poslednie dni supermenaas an answer to the definition of Èto ja--Èdichka's leading character as an "anti-Superman" (Vajl' and Genis 1984); and the "sadomasochistic" novel Palach as a reaction to the following comment onÈto ja&emash;Èdichka: "By Western standards [...] Èdichka has a curious innocence: it is quite without sadism for one thing. There is no rape, no sexual violence, not much domination of one sex over the other [...]". The sexuality described is "not particularly neurotic or obsessional" (Shukman 1983; the topics "Limonov as an executioner" and "Limonov as a sadist" are also discussed in Efimov 1978 and Losev 1978).

In addition, Palach appears to be affected by the remark of Nina Voronel', for whom spiders and cockroaches symbolize the image of Limonov's alter ego in Èto ja--Èdichka (Voronel' 1979). One can sense a argument with this remark in the phrase of a Polish character in Palach, Jacek Gutor, who keeps wondering whether a human being can kiss a cockroach. Moreover, a cockroach is found in the mouth of the dead body of the sadist Oscar, the novel's protagonist.

It is curious that even hostile analyses are often utilized by Limonov to a good effect. Borrowing ideas from ill-disposed reviewers, as well as using the secondary literature on the works of a writer as a literary source for the subsequent works of the same writer, seems to be rarely paralleled and merits a thorough investigation.

Bokov, N. "Narciss na asfal'te N'ju-Jorka." In Russkaja mysl', May 10, 1979: 12.
Efimov, I. "Iz pis'ma." In Èxo, no. 4, 1978: 121.
Lemxin, M. "Inoplanetjanin Limonov." In Kontinent, no. 52, 1987: 393-97.
Losev, A. "Iz pis'ma." In Èxo, no. 4, 1978: 125.
Shukman, A. "Taboos, Splits and Signifiers: Limonov's Èto ja--Èdichka." In Essays in Poetics, vol. 8, no. 2, 1983: 2.
Smirnov, I. "O narcisticheskom tekste (Diaxronija i psixoanaliz)." In Wiener Slawistischer Almanach, Bd. 12, 1983: 21-45.
Vajl' P. and Genis, A. "Supermeny tret'ei volny." In Sem' dnei (New York), no. 55, 1984: 29.
Voronel', N. "Pod sen'ju sinteticheskogo vibratora, ili 'Tarakan ot Detstva'." In Dvadcat' dva, no. 8, 1979: 182-91.