by Olga Slavnikova
A brief follow-up post to my earlier blog entry on 2017 ...
Just after I posted my entry, I reached the part in this book where Slavnikova unwinds a retro-revolution in 2017. Originating more from crowd chaos than political intent in Red Square the fallout is all style and little substance; well-healed Moscovites go on a spending spree so they can purchase and wear Soviet era military and revolutionary garb. I can't help but love this not-so-subtle dig at Russians love affair with shopping.
Additionally, I'd be remiss not to mention that Keith Gessen (my least-favorite author, but a fine essayist on all things Russian) has an article on Dystopian fiction in the June/July/Aug edition of Bookforum in which he mentions 2017 and where it fits into a mini-trend in Russian literature. Gessen attributes his trend to Putin's revival of authoritarianism, an assertion that makes sense. Additionally, his intelligent article contrasts this with an opposite trend in American fiction towards the counterhistorical (he cites Chabon, Roth, Englander and oddly Diaz -- whose book is more historical than counter, imho). He then draws an interesting distinction between dystopian novels, where the future is altered in subtle and not-so-subtle ways, such as Brave New World, 1984, Never Let Me Go and postapocalyptic novels, such as McCarthy's The Road where the world has been all-but destroyed. His distinction made me re-categorize some of the many novels I've read that could fall into these two categories and I believe another distinction between dystopian versus postapocalyptic can be made -- the wielding of power. Postapocalyptic novels are more man vs. his environment or man vs. man based in conflict. In this category is Jim Crace's The Pesthouse, the first book I reviewed for Open Letters three years ago. While another book I reviewed for Open Letters, Jeannette's Winterson's The Stone Gods would fall into the dystopian category.
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