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The Unwelcome Tradition: Bely, Gogol and Metafictional Narration

  • Roger Keys
Part of the Studies in Russia and East Europe book series (SREE)

Abstract

The idea that literature should be valued and explained by reference to moral criteria above all has been the principal assumption of most Russian writers and critics over the last hundred and fifty years. ‘I am a writer,’ said Gogol, ‘and the duty of a writer is not to furnish pleasant pursuits for the mind and taste; he will be held accountable if things useful to the soul are not disseminated by his works and if nothing remains after him as a precept for mankind’ (VIII, 221).1 Not dissimilar sentiments were expressed by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn in his Nobel Lecture of 1970. ‘Russian literature,’ he wrote, ‘has long been familiar with the notions that a writer can do much within his society, and that it is his duty to do so. Let us not violate the right of the artist to express exclusively his own experiences and introspections, disregarding everything that happens in the world beyond … Nevertheless, it is painful to see how, by retiring into his self-made worlds or the spaces of his subjective whims, he can surrender the real world into the hands of men who are mercenary, if not worthless, if not insane.’2

Keywords

Russian Literature Nobel Lecture Lyric Poet Linguistic Register Narratorial Voice 
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Notes

  1. 2.
    L. Labedz (ed.), Solzhenitsyn: A Documentary Record 2nd edn., (Harmondsworth, 1974) p. 315.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    Quoted in R. Wellek, A History of Modern Criticism vol. 4, The Later Nineteenth Century (London, 1966) p. 567.Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    Quoted in V. Markov, ‘The Poetry of Russian Prose-Writers’ (California Slavic Studies, I, 1960, p. 84).Google Scholar
  4. 5.
    V. G. Belinsky, Sobraniyesochineniy v tryokh tomakh, I, (Moscow, 1984) pp. 102–3, 108–9.Google Scholar
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    V. V. Rozanov, ‘Pushkin i Gogol’; reprinted in his Legenda o Velikom Inkvizitore: Opyt kriticheskogo kommentariya s prisoyedineniyem dvukh etyudov o Gogole, 3rd edn., (St Petersburg, 1906) pp. 253–65.Google Scholar
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    Quoted in V. V. Gippius, Gogol, trans. Robert A. Maguire (Ann Arbor, 1981) p. 125.Google Scholar
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    Robert A. Maguire (ed.), Gogol from the Twentieth Century: Eleven Essays (Princeton, 1974) p. 19.Google Scholar
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    V. Alexandrov, Andrei Bely: The Major Symbolist Fiction (Cambridge, Massachusetts and London, 1985) p. 73.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    M. M. Bakhtin, Problemy poetiki Dostoyevskogo (Moscow, 1972) pp. 316ffGoogle Scholar
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    Donald Fanger, The Creation of Nikolai Gogol (Cambridge, Massachusetts and London, 1979) p. 91.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 31.
    N. A. Kozhevnikova, ‘O ritme i sintaksise prozy A. Belogo’ in Yazyk i kompozitsiya khudozhestvennogo teksta, ed. L. Yu. Maksimov (Moscow, 1984) p. 36.Google Scholar
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    N. A. Kozhenikova, ‘O strukture povestvovaniya v proze A. Belogo’ in Istoriya russkogo literaturnogo yazyka i stilistika, ed. Yu. N. Karaulov (Kalinin, 1985) p. 83.Google Scholar
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    R. Alter, Partial Magic: The Novel as a Self-Conscious Genre (Berkeley, 1975) pp. x-xi.Google Scholar
  15. See Patricia Waugh’s Metafiction: The Theory and Practice of Self-Conscious Fiction (London and New York, 1984).Google Scholar

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© School of Slavonic and East European Studies, University of London 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • Roger Keys

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