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Russia’s “Fleurs du Mal”

Contemporary Russian literature is suffering an identity crisis. Lesley Chamberlain describes how post-Soviet writers are struggling to escape the legacy of both 20th century repression and 19th century masters

We’re back where we started,” mourned an ?migr? Russian writer in the literary press recently, observing that three generations of Soviet writing looked like wasted effort. “Ask people what they mean by Russian literature and they will say Tolstoy, Dostoevsky and Chekhov.” He has a point.

Russian literature has virtually skipped the intellectual and artistic 20th century, and if there are any anti-modernists out there who think that might be a good idea, may they think again. Despite the paternity of those eternal avant-gardists-Dostoevsky and Gogol-Russian literature has remained in a 19th century condition, closest to Tolstoy. Socialist realism continued…

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