Academician Katica Kulavkova (Skopje, MASA)

Conference 7-8 November 2011
Research Project: The Image of the Russia on the Balkans. Mythologems, Ideologems, Cultural and Historical Connections”

The Narrative Identity of Russian Emigration since the 1920s in the Macedonian Novel (Srbo Ivanovski, Tome Arskovski, Tanja Urosevic, Blagoja Ivanov)

This interpretative essay analyses the narrative identity of Russian emigration from the beginning of the 20th century, in the contemporary Macedonian novel. The narrative identity of Russian emigration constitutes several novels: Zenata na belogardeecot (The Wife of the White-Guardian) by Srbo Ivanovski (Skopje, Nasha kniga 2001), Zabite na vetrot (Wind Teeth) by Tome Arsovski (Skopje, Tri 2003), Ultramarin (Ultramarin) by Tanja Urosevic (Skopje, Magor 2004) and Sudbina (Destiny) by Blagoja Ivanov (Skopje, Dijalog 2008). The afore-mentioned novels have all been published in the beginning of the 21st century, between 2001 and 2009, showing that the literary interest in the commemoration of Russian emigration in Macedonia is manifested from a historical distance of almost a century. The most contemporary Macedonian novel has finally integrated within its world the tacit and marginalized world of the Russian emigrant population (intellectuals).

The interpretative interest attempts to take into account three elements: first – the socio-cultural context which actualizes the topos of Russian emigration in Macedonia; second – the poetic aspect characteristic of mimetic, narrative and temporal pre-figuration of a real, historical existence; and third – the psychological and metaphysical aspect of fictional mimesis. The interpretation is seen as a re-conception of the imaginary world, and not as a descriptive analysis of the formal aspects of the text in the novels.

Theoretically, this essay is based on the hermeneutics of time, narrative and subject by Paul Ricoeur (Temps et récit, I-II, Paris, Seuil 1983-1985 and actualizes the question of the cognitive aspect of literature (fonction référentielle). He confirms, with new illustrations, the difference between the cosmological (historical, chronological) and phenomenological (internal, intimate, emotional, narrative, fictional) time, but insists to show the origin of an essential integration of those two modes of time in the novel with the assistance of the powerful illusion of reality and the new identities inspired by metaphysical existence (in which there is also a unification of the here-being with the being, i.e. of the being with the Being).
<>The skillfully built narrative identities in the novels transcend the contradictions between the historical, the existential, the personally experienced and artistically pre-configured time and create an illusion of harmony which is psychologically and anthropologically effective, transformative for the reader and therefore effective on a wider social scale. The differences between the fictional, auto-fictional and historic (archival, documentary) story are indisputable, but not incompatible when found within the same novel. This research does point out to those constructive, aesthetic and genre differences among the Macedonian novels, which actualize the theme of Russian emigration.

In that actualization a multitude of memories, emotions, and traumas are to be found, but there is also a metaphysical joy at the reanimation of a lost past/time in the world of the novel and the consciousness of the reader. A specific aesthetic pleasure is constituted which transcends the elemental ludic frames of aestheticism and enters the realm of the psychological and psycho-gogical.

The figures of the Russian emigrants in the Macedonian novels from the first decade of the 21st century are, in a number of ways, illustrative of the various configurations of identity both on the level of the subject (internal identities) and on the level of the object (from the position of the other and as a position of the Other). There, the conflicting situations arise between the stereotypes of the Russian identity and the demystification of the identity in the novel, between the memory, which is always personalized in the novel, and existence (the past itself) which has already taken on historical dimensions and has been deformed under the pressure of oblivion and collective repression.

In the new Macedonian novel of the Russian emigration another World is created and that world is something between the world of reality and the world of pure imagination. Memory is never completely autonomous and indifferent, but is always predetermined by the existences to which it refers. Fictional memory is an act of creating a new world and not just an act of reconstructing the old, lost world. It has both an ontological and magical powers, so prevailing that it is only a Metaphysical Illusion.

The Macedonian white, emigrant novel has created a recognizable yet, for many, an almost non-existent time – the existence of the Russian emigration in the Macedonian society is so forgotten, so publicly unrecognized! The novel today reminds us of that time-within-time from the Macedonian reality and renews the images of the traumatized identity. On the basis of that trauma, the tacit difference and slow conversion (assimilation) of the identities, the phenomenon of the complex ambiguous, yet integrated, identity is created. The merging of the one into the other identity acts as a narration of the story within a story type, thus being a novel within a novel, as an essential manifestation of intertextuality (in literature) and interculturality (in reality).

Other illustrative literature was also used for the interpretation (about the Russian monks in Macedonia, and the biographical prose Crvena zetva (Red Harvest) by Janeshliev).