The Post-Soviet Novel as World Literature

Posted in News Story

Presenter: Bradley Gorski, Assistant Professor of Slavic Literature

Responder: Elliott Colla, Associate Professor and Chair, Department of Arabic and Islamic Studies Georgetown Humanities Faculty Work in Progress series.

Tues. Nov 9, 2021 12:00 to 12:45 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)

Abstract: Though the recent revival of “world literature” and post-Soviet Russia are roughly the same age. Scholars rarely consider Russian novels of the last three decades to ask how works from the former second world have traveled internationally. Perhaps this is because Professor Bradley Gorski argues the post-Soviet novel fits uncomfortably within the paradigm. Some of Russia’s most successful exports challenge the model’s ostensibly apolitical, market underpinnings, and point to a more complex relationship between market aesthetics and Cold War politics.

Two post-Soviet Russian authors whose works travel particularly well abroad. Ludmila Ulitskaya and Vladimir Sorokin complicate the model of world literature by betraying an apparently retrograde interdependency between aesthetics and politics.  Through the example of these authors, world literary space is revealed to be not a sovereign territory where “literary struggles, freed from political constraints, [are] bound to obey no other law than the law of literature,” in Casanova’s phrasing, but one with a more complicated temporality whose market mechanisms continue to be fueled by the ideologies and affiliations of the past.