Literary roundup: Russian canons and man-made dystopias

At Russia Beyond the Headlines Alexander Genis asks whether Russia could have a Norton-like anthology of its literature, in spite of all the debate that surrounds these anthologies and the canons they imply. Russia though, especially in the 20th century, presents some unique challenges:

“Perhaps, the solution is to end the list at 1917. As long as the Russian blogosphere holds hot and voluble debates about whether Stalin was the father of all nations or not, hardly anything that is suitable for the whole country will come out of the post-revolutionary literature anthology.”

Fuel was added to this particular fire when Vladimir Putin proposed a list of the best Russian books. This was put to a popular vote by a Russian portal (always a great idea!), and though there were some sensible choices, number four was Sholokov’s And Quiet Flows the Don (try reading it) while down in the lower range of votes could be found the Penal Code.

Genis ends his article with the most sensible suggestion: “Isn’t it interesting to know what Bitov and Iskander, Makanin and Tolstaya, Gandlevsky and Zvetkov, Strugatsky and Akunin, Grebenschikov and Shevchuk, Sorokin and Pelevin have on their reader lists? The anthology that includes the best of the best could provide the new generation with a priceless literary language.”

Vladimir Voinovich creating the future

On the occasion of his 80th birthday The Atlantic has an interview with Russian novelist Vladimir Voinovich, the date also being 30 years in advance of his dystopian novel Moscow-2042, in which he described a totally unrealistic future where the KGB forces combine with the Orthodox Church . . uh oh!

People actually accused him of creating self-fulfilling predictions in the novel, to which Voinovich quite reasonably replies: “As soon as we finish this interview, I’ll start working. I’ll write a glorious future — communist — and then we’ll [see]. … By the way, in Soviet times they more or less said the same thing — that writers must depict the glorious future and then people will imitate it and it will be brought about.”

Photo – Vladimir Voinovich by Dmitry Rozhkov/Wikimedia Commons

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