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Aesthetics and Violence in Contemporary Russian Literature

Aesthetics and Violence in Contemporary Russian Literature

Even in

Even in the 1990s, some of the episodes did not pass the censor. Thus sexuality, rape and cruelties on the side of Russians had to be cut out in spite of the author’s protest, for example the episode of young female soldiers spilling their legs with blood of menstruation after marching days in the heat in boots, far too big for them, in male underwear, no napkins whatsoever. When the batallion reached a river, the young women threw themselves into the water, risking to be shot, while their male compattants hid in the bushes. One girl got shot to death in this. The shame and urge to wash themselves was stronger than the need to protect themselves. - The censor yelled at S.A.: “Where have you read such nonsense, in Remarque’s novels, I bet? A Soviet woman is not an animal!” After the book was published, the author received not only enthusiastic responses, but had to face harsh criticism and massive protests – up to threats to murder her! -, which – most painful for her - included protests by women, who had been soldiers themselves in World War II. They reproached her for debasing, insulting and dehumanising women in war and the image of woman in general. But there was also deliberate self-censorship: so S.A. left an episode out, in which a girl watches her brother, a partisan, who brutally beats an innocent neighbour to death with an iron stick, the eldest of their village, which was occupied by the Germans. 15 Svetlana Aleksievich, Ich bin eine Frau, die dank reflektierendem Licht leuchtet. A Documentary Tale (tr. Rosemarie Tietze), Jutta Sauer/Peter Wortmann/Literaturbüro Westniedersachsen (ed.), Erich Maria Remarque. Friedenspreis der Stadt Osnabrück für historische Aufklärung, Menschenrechte und soziale Fürsorge 2001, Ostnabrück, 2002, pp. 51-62. 16 Vladimir Sorokin, Mesiats v Dakhau (1992), Sochineniia v dvukh tomakh, tom 2, A Month in Dachau, Grand Street, 12,4 („Oblivion“ 48), 233-253. (More Sorokin in English, The Queue. Transl. by Sally Leird, New York-London, 1985. Four Stout Hearts (An Excerpt from the Novel (transl. by Jamey Gambrell), Glas, 2 (1991), pp. 15-48. Mikhail Ryklin, Borshch posle ustrits. Arkheologiia viny in „Hochzeitsreise“, Dagmar Burkhart (ed.), Poetik der Metadiskursivität. Zum postmodernen Prosa-, Film- und Dramenwerk Sorokins, Munich 1999, pp. 179-186. 17 Ryklin in Burkhart… 18 Iurii Mamleyev, Shatuny (1978). On violence in Mamleyev Deutschmann (2004), Schmid (?), Weller (2004), (Menzel (2005). 19 Eduard Limonov, Russkoe psikho, Moscow, 2003. Olga Matich, Eduard Limonov: Making War and Love, Paper given at the Conference: Post-Communist Condition, Berlin, 2004. 20 Aleksandr Prokhanov, Gospodin Geksogen, Moscow: Ad marginem, 2002; Wolfgang Eismann: Repressive Toleranz im Kulturleben. Prochanov, ein Literaturpreis und das binäre russische Kulturmodell, OSTEUROPA, 6 (2003): 821-838; and Birgit Menzel (ed.), Kulturelle Konstanten im Wandel. Zur russischen Kultur heute, Bochum (2004). 21 Even formula literary genres like Science Fiction did not have a subgenre “horror-novel” which was highly developed in Anglo-American SF, for instance. 22 Limonov’s favorite film is The Nightporter (see Matich), in which the German Nazi-torturer falls in love with his victim, a young beautiful Jewish woman, whose body he once used for medical experiments in concentration camp, and who is equally falling for him, when they meet by chance in their bourgeois Post-War life in Vienna. 23 See the controversy about Ernst Juenger on the occasion of awarding him with the Goethe-Prize in 1983. Feminist critics’ response: Renate Wiggershaus, Einige Überlegungen zur Ernst Jünger- Diskussion, Grüne Hessenzeitung 12/83, Dezember 1983/Januar 1984, pp. 33-35. 24 Although the question whether there is more violence today in Russia or whether only the perception changed with the changing representation of violence in media, art and literature, is hard to answer. 25 Since WWII, the “glocalizing” of wars (euphemisms like “purges”, “ethnic cleansing”; Ruanda, Jugoslavia, Iraq, Chechnia etc.) and the electronic revolution (technology producing more efficient weapons than ever before and computer games training generations to be thrilled in the precision and vast number of kills, to see “the enemy” in the most abstract, non-human terms. A literal effect of this can be seen in the fact, that more than 90% soldiers in wars of the 1990s shoot to kill, while only 55% of them fired to kill in wars of the mid-20 th century. Advanced technology is only the material aspect of it. See Chris Floyd, Christianity Today, December 28, 2004. 10

“According to a startling historical study by military psychologist Lt. Colonel Dave Grossman, 80 to 85 percent of the “greatest generation” refused to fire their weapons at an exposed enemy in combat. In the Korean War 55 percent of soldiers fired to kill. Today, in what the Pentagon sees as a triumph, 95 percent of America’s young soldiers are ready to kill another human being.” On the consequences of the growing acceptance of violence see Giorgio Agamben, Homo sacer: Sovereign power and bare life, Stanford, 1998 (German: Ausnahmezustand. Homo sacer, Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 2002/2003/2004. 26 Galina Takigawa-Nikiporets, New Technology as a toll for philological research. Some tools for a semantic analysis of the language of the mass media. Компьютерные технологии для семантического анализа ЯСМИ. Unpublished paper given at the ICCEES in Berlin, July 2005. 27 Vladimir Papernyi, Kul’tura Dva, Ann Arbor 1985, p. 249; M 1996, p. ???. 11

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