Degree Year

2018

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Department

Russian

Advisor(s)

Arlene Forman
Thomas Newlin

Keywords

Fatum ad Benedictum, Moscow-Petushki, Homo Sovieticus, Postmodernism, Post-Soviet, Erofeev, Venedikt Erofeev, Venedikt Vasilevich Erofeev, Venya, Venichka, Fate, Irony

Abstract

The following honors thesis is structured into two parts, four chapters apiece.

The first part is a philological study of the Soviet dissident and writer Venedikt Vasilevich Erofeev’s magnum opus, Moscow-Petushki (1969-70). This half of the thesis investigates Petushki in light of its thematic development of fate, or, more particularly, the fate of homo sovieticus—the ironic term devised by Soviet sociologist Aleksandr Zinovyev (1922-2006) to describe a typical conformist citizen of the Soviet Union. I will focus predominantly on Petushki’s connection to the end of the Khrushchev “Thaw” in the early-mid-1960s and the beginning of Brezhnev “Stagnation” in the late-1960s, and will explore the work's engagement with postmodernism.

The second part of my honors thesis is an extension of the first. In this section, I reconstruct and analyze the “Kolomna period” of Erofeev’s life and career (ca. 1962-1963), during which he matriculated at the local Kolomensky Pedinstitute and later, following his expulsion, worked as a truck driver and in mass retail. I posit Kolomna as a watershed in Erofeev’s biography. This period saw the end of his university studies and the beginning of the “living large” (what he would name his “ochen’ zhiznennii put’”) that characterized his existence up until his death in 1990 of lung cancer. After Kolomna Erofeev’s life was marked by increasingly destructive bouts of alcoholism and smoking, extensive peregrinations through the former Soviet Union (largely undertaken sans propiska, or mandatory residence permit), and, most of all, the freer form of writing that culminated artistically in Moscow-Petushki. This part of my analysis asserts a link between the fate of Venichka, the notorious erudite drunk of Moscow-Petushki, and that of Venedikt Erofeev, its controversial author. Although not a single journal or piece of writing by Erofeev from this period is extant, I nonetheless maintain that there is a body of evidence that allows us to piece together a provisional reconstruction of Erofeev’s life as he lived it in Kolomna during 1962-1963. The hands-on, on-site research that I conducted for part two took as its starting point the ostensibly “semi-autobiographical” nature of Erofeev’s poem-in-prose.

Furthermore, in this second half of the honors thesis I curate and analyze materials from the museum and artcommune “Erofeev and Others” and from the seventh annual Kolomna apple and book fair “Antonov’s Apples.” I also transcribe and analyze interviews taken with knowledgeable sources on Erofeev: a local Kolomna poet, Aleksei Makeev, and the chief executor of Erofeev’s literary legacy and wife of his son, Galina Erofeeva. For the materials from the museum and festival, I include a set of pictures underscored by captioned analyses; for the materials from the interviews, I provide a written transcription interspersed with authorial commentary.

I collected these materials during a seven-week stay in the city during the autumn of 2018, and have reprinted or recreated them with the express permission of the city of Kolomna, as well as the specific personages they concern. For additional biographical and literary cultural information, I also rely on published recorded interviews with Erofeev and the journals he kept throughout the 1960s. These can be found on the official Erofeev website, which contains information on his entire œuvre to date.

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