Jewish Kabbalah, Judeo-Masonic Myth and Post-Soviet Literary Discourse: from Political Tool to Virtual Parody

Marina Aptekman, Wheaton College, Norton, MA

In the nineteenth and especially in the twentieth century, literature in Russian society often played a role that in Western society was occupied by the media. For generations of Russians, literature, and not mass media, was the primary source of knowledge that shaped their views of the world. The freedom of press brought by the end of communism resulted in circumstances in which literature suddenly lost its prophetic function, which had been accorded to it since the eighteenth century. In Russia the prophetic role of the writer made literature socially powerful enough to create the popular mythologies that in the West are typically created by media. These literary mythologies became so effectual in popular minds that they could be easily adopted by political media and speculatively presented to the audience as a granted reality. After the fall of the Soviet Union the media inherited the prophetic function formerly assigned to literature. Now media creates mythologies, and literature is left to borrow from these mythologies and subsist upon them.

In the history of Russian literature the nineties would be remembered as a period of deep transmutation of all esthetic, ideological and ethical paradigms. This shift was characterized by a radical change in the comprehension of literary codes, the role of writer and the type of reader. This literary situation led to the creation of a new literary trend in Russian literature, postmodernism. It was already broadly noticed that a postmodernist text is always secondary and plagiarist by its nature. It is formed upon allusions, quotations and references to other texts, well known to an average reader, which it widely employs and often mocks. Yet, postmodernism is not so much interested in a text per se as in the literary and social mythologies that have been created by previous literary works. It exploits the myths of the past and the present while at the same time, constructs its own virtual reality based on these myths and, eventually, by parodying and mocking them, it deconstructs them.

Post-Soviet Russian postmodernist works exploit various literary mythologies: the Soviet mythology, created by the books and films of the Stalin and Brezhnev eras, the intelligentsia myths, created by the Thaw generation, and certainly the mythologies of the most influential period in the history of Russian literature, the Silver Age. Yet, in such a highly politicized society as post-Soviet Russia, the postmodernist authors are also interested in political myths, created by the media and not by literature, which have been popularized in the late Soviet and early post-Soviet period. Some of these myths were born at this time; some were centuries old and have been revived. Among them, the myth of the Judeo-Masonic kabbalistic conspiracy is probably among the most popular and widespread. The post-Soviet postmodernist literature has adopted this mythology from the political press of the National-Patriotic parties. It had played with it, ridiculed it and deconstructed it, diverting it back into the literary space, into the space of virtual reality, a space of falsification for the sake of falsification, that is, for the sake of a literary game.

In my paper I will analyze the evolution of the reflection of the Judeo-Masonic kabbalistic myth from the early 1990s to the present. My central argument is based upon two of the most controversial and provocative Russian novels of the last decade,Vladimir Sorokin's Ice and Alexander Prokhanov's Mr. Geksogen. The goal of the article is to examine how a popular stereotype that had been used as a political myth eventually began being perceived as a virtual mythology. This mythology has been exploited at the boundary of two literary styles that can be defined as a 'conspirological' thriller and a fantasy story. As a result, a political discourse, placed it in the boundaries of a literary genre, was deconstructed and reduced to a postmodern text, a 'kabbalistic conspirological fantasy,' completely deprived it of its political substance.