Myth as Reality: Understanding Anatolij Kim’s Early Fiction

Erika Haber, Syracuse University

Scholars often comment on the fantastic or magical elements in Anatolij Kim’s fiction (Dalton-Brown 1995; Kolchevska 1992; Peterson 1989; Rich 1990; Rougle 1990), yet Kim asserts “what I am writing is realism pure and simple” and complains that the critics fail to understand his works (Taratsina 1982: 121). My paper will examine this seeming paradox. Is this a matter of perception or a question of interpretation? Does Kim create a sense of the fantastic by writing in accordance with Eastern beliefs? Could it be a result of combining Buddhist teachings and Russian (or Western) reality? Does his unique style create a dialogue between cultures as seen in magical realism?

According to Wendy B. Faris (1995), magical realism is commonly created on the structural or narrative planes in post-modern fiction. Indeed, the so-called fantastic elements of Kim’s stories often arise through distortions of the spatial, temporal and narrative planes as well as from the frequent inclusion of native myths. In an interview with Evgenii Shklovskii in 1990, Kim explained that his complex style is the result of trying to find a form that would allow the idea to express itself; he prefers to ask questions rather than to answer them and dislikes rhetoric and confession. For Kim, style is as important as plot in the creation of meaning.

My study will focus on Kim’s early (pre-1990) fiction, including his novella Lotus as well as his novels Belka and Otec-les. By analyzing Kim’s narrative style according to the ontological model of magical realism described by Roberto González Echeverría (1990), I will try to elucidate just what kind of “realism” Kim has written and provide a new approach to understanding his fiction.


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Echeverría, Roberto González. Alejo Carpentier. The Pilgrim at Home. Austin: U of Texas P, 1990.

Faris, Wendy B. “Scheherazade’s Children: Magical Realism and Postmodern Fiction” in Magical Realism: Theory, History, Community. Edited by Lois Parkinson Zamora and Wendy B. Faris. Durham: Duke UP, 1995, 163-190.

Kolchevska, Natasha. “Fathers, Sons and Trees: Myth and Reality in Antaolij Kim’s Otec-les. SEEJ, 3 (1992): 339-352.

Peterson, Nadya. “Science Fiction and Fantasy: A Prelude to the Literature of Glasnost.” Slavic Review, 2 (Summer 1989): 254-268.

Rich, Elisabeth T. “Mortality, Immortality, and Anatoli Kim’s ‘Father-Forest’.” Soviet Literature, 9 (1990): 176-186.

Rougle, Charles. “On the Fantastic Trend in Recent Soviet Prose.” SEEJ, 34 (1990): 308- 321.

Shklovskii, Evg. “V poiskakh garmonii.” Literaturnoe obozrenie, 6 (1990): 53-58.

Taratsina, Slava. “The Breath of Legend: Interview with Anatolii Kim.” Soviet Literature, 4 (1982): 119-122.