Irma Ratiani                                                                                                                                                                             # 10


Anti-totalitarian Text: Literary Reaction to Intellectual Terror


            Keywords: Anti-Totalitarian Text; Genre; Anti-Utopia;


            The literary genre of anti-utopia turned into one of the most successful literary reflections of communism, a mass dictatorial regime formed in the past century. Literary anti-utopia, as a most radical anti-totalitarian text of the 20th century, reflected precisely the crisis of the age, the general skepticism and nihilism that reigned in society oppressed by intellectual terror.

Literary anti-utopia is utopia in the negative context. Whereas utopia is a social fantasy about an ideal society, anti-utopia – as counter-utopia – actively opposes any social structure set up with a view to implementing this or that social ideal. Utopia is a dream of an ideally governed society, while anti-utopia is a protest against practical realization of imposed happiness. Thus, the worlds of implemented utopia and of rebellious anti-utopia are identical; but, whereas utopia is an “ideal type” of an equal society, anti-utopia constitutes an “ideal type” of slave society.

Literary utopia is the leader of the “new, ideal order” that is wisely governed from “above” and is of universal-mass character. In contrast to this, literary anti-utopia cannot and does not put up with the coercive character of the “new, ideal order” and fights to save individual dignity within mass movement.

Proceeding from this, the principal conceptual characteristic of anti-utopia is identification of the opposition: ordered society/individual with the opposition: mass/personality, in which society is a relevant concept of mass subordinated to a hypertrophied governmental mechanism, while man is a non-conformist personality opposed to it.

The mass represented in an anti-utopian novel is an aggregate of “free slaves”, governed by force by means of hierarchic state machine, and which is opposed by the recalcitrant protagonist. The property of the main character of an anti-utopian novel is his special feature, which in the first place implies the sense of his individual self and struggle towards the preservation of this identity. Accordingly, two differing psychological types take shape in an anti-utopian novel: mass and individual, whose antagonistic interrelationship is revealed clearly in the motivational model characteristic of the anti-utopian genre. The latter model is based on several firmly established motifs, such as: collective work and quasi-nomination; the leader and leadership; progress and technocracy; abundance of the creative mind; fear; destruction of the family tradition; suicide; pseudo-carnival and pseudo-ritual; parody.

Coordination of these motifs with conceptual characteristics in a number of anti-utopian texts assumes eschatological significance and shapes the projection of literary struggle against the dictatorial regime.

Collective work in an anti-utopian novel is of conveyor character, turning to almost biological need. The work process rules out individual initiative of any type and is directed at provoking the ideal and moral myopia of the mass. Aleksey Gastev, one of the theoreticians of proletarian culture wrote: “It is right to mechanize not only gestures and productive-labour methods but of ordinary everyday life thought as well. Fusion of thought with objectification brings about astonishing normalization of proletarian psychology…it is this trait that adds extreme anonymity to proletarian psychology, as b, ch, or 325, 075, or 0. In this case there are not millions of heads but only common head. This tendency leads to the annihilation of individual thought, turning into an objective psychology of the entire class, which is manifested in switchings on, switchings-off, and switchings again” (Gastev, 1919:10). The regulator of collective work is the state – a single and powerful state machine, enslaving people with slogans of happiness and removing all opportunities of demonstrating individual originality. Humans work like animals, gradually losing the feeling of dignity and becoming integrated in the mass without a name or surname. Accordingly, there appears the motif of quasi-nomination, as one of the characteristic of anti-utopia;

            Quasi-nomination implies assigning new names, the so-called nicknames to nameless, lone beings, integrated in the mass, as well as to stably recurring events and processes. The semantics of a nickname hardly fits the true nature of the objects, but fully accords with the new state order, on the one hand, and with the ambivalence characteristic of anti-utopia, on the other. For example, the characters of the first classical anti-utopia “we” represent renumbered creatures – D-503, I-330, 0, etc., the so called “numbers” that have no names or surnames, while the characters of Huxley’s widely known anti-utopia, “Brave New World” consciously assimilate with those “unshakeable” authorities (Marx, Lenin) to whose lot it fell” to live in the epochs of “proletarian” and “industrial” revolutions and to make a valuable contribution to the building of the “new world”. Nickname in an anti-utopian novel is an endeavour to identify the demiurgic function generally of the state or local government, when objects and phenomena existing in the world artificially acquire new names or out of chaos a new cosmos or order corresponding to a “clear” utopia is created.

            The official structure in the anti-utopian novel has its leaders, but the concept of leader is ambivalent. In the first place, the leader is not the person who merits leadership but who desires more than others to be a leader and strives in every way towards attaining this goal. Whereas in normal conditions achieving leadership is linked to definite characteristics: ones intelligence, competence, merit or, for that matter, hereditariness, in the anti-utopian novel it is subject to the only principle: aggressive desire. A kind of governmental ideology – an irrational structure – takes shape that turns a human being into a simple work unit. But the notion of leader in an anti-utopian novel has a second, deeper significance: demiurgic or building function, which implies the “creation” of a new social model and “remaking” of man according to a relevant pattern. The process of “creating” and “remaking” takes place under the sign of a certain regression. The anti-utopian leader creates a new social model or implements utopian conception, but in his search for organized good and happiness, resting on force, he changes the life of human beings, which gradually develops into chaos and disaster, ultimately assuming the form of organized crime. Transformation of the leader is inevitable. His constructive function transforms into a punitive and destructive function. It is such leaders that we find in the anti-utopias in the shape of “leaders of people”: The Benefactor (“we”), “Supreme Mustapha Mond (“Brave New World”), the “ideologist” O’Brian (“1984”), and others. “Utopian movements are always launched by selfless people,” S. J. Frank notes, filled with love for the people, who are ready to lay down their lives for their neighbours; such men not only resemble saints but, from a definite standpoint, do share holiness. But gradually, owing to the approach of the practical implementation of the task set, they themselves either change into being possessed of the force of Satanic evil, or yield their authority to perverted and hard-hearted seekers of power, as their successors. “Such is the paradoxical development of all revolutions, the attempt to turn all utopian conception into a rule of life” (Frank 1992: 54). The leader turns into a personification of violence and evil – into a monster that is an object of artificial-pathetic exultation of the subordinated masses.

            The most effective way of subordinating the masses in an anti-utopian novel is that of demonstrating progress. The motif of collective work and leader merges with that of scientific progress and technocracy. The motif of progress is assigned a definite function in the anti-utopian novel: the shaping of a new man is a purely technical process, the result of artificial fusion and build-up, of which modern mechanical achievements are capable. Man is a slave of machine – simultaneously its product and user. “You can set up and make a new man according to your taste” – this is the slogan of the new system, in which the main target of the attack is the subject’s individual nature. Thus, e.g. the principal idea of Zamyatin’s novel is the construction of an integral - a universal machine that will “effect integration of the infinite equalization of the world” (Zamyatin 1989: 307) and will not allow manifestation of “individual originality”. Huxley goes farther, for whom science has turned into a simple list of “culinary recipes”, being an unshakeable guarantor of “ordered everyday life”. The world reflected in anti-utopian novels is a dimension placed within a rigid, geometrical framework, an Euclidean reality that eggs its inmates on to dogmatization of thought. In conditions of numbers, integrals, precise calculations and tamed mind art loses its “shameful freedom”, turning into a “common-popular” gain. The motif of leveling the creative mind merges quite naturally with the motif of scientific progress and technocracy.

The creative principle is blocked, art is turned into a “cynical technology of sensations”, being one of the forms of state diktat. A poet’s highest achievement in this world is the title of “state poet”. The best place for the creation of music is the roaring and buzzing workshops of factories and plants. “I thought”, Zamyatin notes sarcastically, “how did it all happen that the old-timers overlooked the senselessness of their literature and poetry. The enormous, brilliant power of literature was wasted in vain. It is simply ludicrous that everyone wrote what came into his mind. This is ludicrous and silly in the same way as the fact that with old-timers the sea waves day and night dashed against the shore and the millions of kilogrammetres in the waves were spent on kindling the feelings of pairs in love. We obtained electricity from the amorous whisper of waves, we made a domestic animal of the beast roaring in the frenzied froth, and precisely in the same way we tamed and brought to its senses the once wild element of poetry. Today poetry is not the swallows’ carefree twitter: poetry is state service, poetry is profit” (Zamyatin 1989: 351-352). Any manifestation of individual culture is relentlessly destroyed in the anti-utopian world: ancient monuments of culture perish, best specimens of architecture fall to ruin, valuable manuscripts and object are sold, no one reads books, they are burnt in public to ensure “mental hygiene of the citizens”. In this situation naturally emerges the motif of fear.

            Fear acquires ambivalent meaning in the anti-utopian novel: on the one hand, it determines the obedience of the masses to the leader and state structures, on the other, fear makes the protagonist feel the cruelty of empirical world, enhances his experience of protest and plays a coordinating role in working out an alternative reality by the character.

            In a society built on terror, fear and disregard of “self” family in its traditional sense is obviously ruled out: family is man’s own sphere, his individual corner and nest; now, in the anti-utopian  novel man is deprived of all rights of individuality. In the world of centralized eugenics family loses its genuine function and it emerges as a guarantor of stereotypic stability: family ensures both quantitative and qualitative stability of the members of society. The family relations described in anti-utopian novels represent a caricatured and exaggerated but conceptually correct version of utopian theories.

B. Lanin points out: “It fell to anti-utopia to give a perfect depiction of the process of breakdown of family relations in the 20th century. The reason is the state’s unlimited and absolute power over man. The state took upon itself much more than was permissible for man. There is a definite boundary that delimits man from the state, and family may become such a boundary. But where the state “tramples” the family, it is inconceivable to speak about a perfect sovereign personality. The second reason stems from the essence of anti-utopia itself. Only such persons are mostly described in anti-utopias that can fight only for their own survival and who have no other way out than to banish from their minds all thought and remembrance of any social institution and to fight only for their own, minimally possible existence” (Lanin, 1993: 78-79). I can only partly agree with the researcher. In the view presented by him the primary or state-caused reason of the picture of the break-up of family relations should doubtless be considered justified. Anti-utopia, formed in opposition to totalitarianism, would naturally expose acutely the ineptitude and absurdity of the controlled family structures organized by the state machine, and most importantly, the leveling of the profoundly intimate gene. But I cannot share the second or conceptual reason proposed by the researcher. I think the thesis: “fight for one’s survival” somewhat belittles the scale and value of the actions of the protagonist of anti-utopian novels. The nonconformist characters of anti-utopia fight not only “to save their own skins”, but generally, to save the human race. The concept of “personal” here is deeply integrated with the understanding of “mankind”, to a greater degree being a projection of global transformation than is possible at the level of a concrete individual. One thing is clear, a family subordinated to state regulation in an anti-utopian novel is an undoubted indication of stereotypic stability, and it is distinguished for two clear peculiarities: anonymity and striving towards identification.

            R. Galtseva and I. Rodnyanskaya note correctly: “We assume in advance that in the society in which the basic constants of human existence have changed the pathos of self-becoming prevails: it is proud of having created itself” (Galtseva 1988: 221). The pathos of self becoming – true, at different angles, but practically always rules out the “parents” phenomenon. In literary anti-utopia there exist several versions of hereditary anonymity:

  1. Artificial fecundation;

  2. offering child for adoption;

  3. early death of parents;

  4. failure to recognize own parents.

Each of these versions strengthens the tendency to conceptualize the notion of “parent” as an anonymous category in an anti-utopian novel. Obviously, destruction of the parent’s function maximally enhances that of the state. The state replaces the parents and substitution assumes an emphatically purposeful character: the state defines the person, sets the limits of permissible and forbidden zones of action for the person, sets up a model of standard knowledge and intelligence for all persons with no kith and kin. I believe, the loss of contact with the parents is an extremely important aspect of literary anti-utopia, for it is a precondition of turning being into a segment of the state.

            The concept of family tradition in an anti-utopian novel is insignificant to the verge of disappearance, it is either a property of a distant part, or a small fragment surviving in the character’s memory – or an element invading from an alien temporal-spatial expanse. Leveling of the parent’s factor is an important precondition of the universal tendency of identification taking shape within anti-utopian novel; it is the indispensable prerequisite that pushes the individual to the mass. But it is also the only road for the survival of the nonconformist: the feeling of genetic dignity, as a conceptual introspection, ensures to a considerable extent the success of the fight waged in the name of saving the person.

            The breakdown of family traditions in the anti-utopian novel is obviously characterized also by the standardization of the relations of husband and wife: the world that is capable of artificial identification of various genetic codes, strives also to tame Eros and passion. Zamyatin’s “personal clock and rosy tickets” are replaced wit Huxley’s “central incubators” and marriage with Orwell’s “according to party mandate. The principle of “sharing”, typical of utopia as an anti-model comes into play.

            This motif might be connected with Tommaso Campanella, one of the founders of utopia, considered “rational birth rate” as the principal condition of the power of a state. To this end, active medical and astrological selection of couples to be married took place in the “city of the sun”. “The principle of sharing” was the determining condition here: “The philosophical type of united life [], Campanella wrote, “the principle of sharing women [] is adopted on the basis of the conception of universal wholeness and unity… production of offspring is in the interests of the state, where the interest of individual persons will be taken into account to the extent it emerges as a constituent part of the state” (Campanella 1970: 182).

            Charles Fourier goes much further, his doctrine presenting the paradoxical propaganda of “free love”: Fourier’s “free love” emerges not as a call for depravity and licentiousness but integration of humans through work and, accordingly, as a firm guarantor of creating the state’s wealth. “The passions that were to be enemies of unity”, Fourier writes, “and against which thousands of volumes were written… passions, I assert, are called only for agreement, only social unity from which we considered them so distant. But harmonious ordering of passions is possible only in one case: if they develop in a progressive series or several groups. Without this mechanism, passions look like tigers broken loose and represent incomprehensible riddles” (Fourier 1971: 522).

      R. Owen’s doctrine strengthens Fourier’s view. 

Thus, the utopians considered the notorious concept of Lex sexualis as the only clear prospect of ideal order: all belong to all or the unlimited principle of “mutual use” is established, which ensures standardized happiness of the citizens. In conditions of such society no one has the right to be less happy than another. In the opinion the utopians, sexual life and the family are levers in the service of the state mechanism, whose correctness, firmness and stability ensures a high degree of social production.

            The motif of “co-sharing”, “universality” and “mutual use” turned into one of the principal anti-motifs or anti-themes in anti-utopia, breaking down and destroying the idea of family as an intimate unity.

            The motif of a woman as a depraved being in the anti-utopian novel merges with the motif of family stability, made the object of irony, in relation to the protagonist. A definite group of researchers perceives the motif of the woman’s depravity, dominant in the anti-utopian novel as a depravity that has reached rationality, being opposed to the rationality reaching depravity in utopia. Depravity is taken to be a pre-determined, rational act, constituting a forced action by a female character, aimed at self-preservation.

            But to what extent is identification of depravity with the rational act of self-preservation justified if the motif of sexual freedom embraces the motif of self-preservation, then voluntary depravity is accounted for as an extreme attempt at regaining lost or deprived intimate independence. I think such statement of the problem is erroneous. Voluntary depravity proves not the separation of the woman’s private life from the outside world but, on the contrary, leveling of individual feelings, their total disappearance and disregard. Anti-utopian depravity is a relevant act of the utopian concepts of “sharing” and “mutual consumption”, carrying genre-creating significance: the woman’s depravity intensifies the antagonism of the main character to the “ideal world”, on the one hand, and determines his/her centrifugal movement from the depth of the anti-utopian society outward. These processes stem from one another: the main character of anti-utopia, who wishes to be restored in his own individual model, grasps in desperation at the deprived prospect of love, trying to regain the lost right of intimate life. But the understanding of sexual relations in the anti-utopian novel is inevitably related to the concept of subjectivity: sex, in its genuine sense, is unacceptable in anti-utopian mass conditions and is consciously overshadowed by the thoughtless, automatic, mechanical depravity of the character’s chosen woman. Thus, passion, which is one of the strong indicators of the personality of a human being, is totally disarmed and falsified. The emptiness caused by the deprivation of passion, sex and individuality strengthens the striving of the nonconformist character from the anti-utopian novel outward. The acuteness of the carnal wound alerts her spiritual potentialities and a drive to fight. He is clearly aware of the most difficult, ironic-tragic relation to the hardened and ritualized social order that flows in the channel of pseudo-carnival (see Ratiani, 2009: 81-93).

            One of the most significant characteristics of pseudo-carnival is the construction of the “artificial structure”, as a result of collective thinking. An “artificial structure” or organized system is formed, with the function of an imposed ideology, and against whom the “natural creature” or the nonconformist character with individual features inevitably rebels. In other words, the realization of the model set permanently points to its replacement with an alternative model and, accordingly, unending search for new order. It is the “unfinished state” – continuity limitless duration - that constitutes the main characteristic of pseudo-carnival atmosphere, distinguishing it from the “temporariness” of carnival. “It is life itself that plays in a carnival”, M. Bakhtin notes, “and play turns temporarily into life” (Bakhtin, 1986: 299). It is “temporariness” that distinguishes carnival from “unfinished” and “continuous” pseudo-carnival. Carnival festivals, that extremely well reflected the real and world view values of mankind, were always in healthy relationship with the phenomenon of time. “They were always based on a definite and concrete conception of natural (cosmic), biological and historical time”, writes Bakhtin…. “here festival turned into a form of second life for the people which temporarily stepped into utopian kingdom of universality, freedom, equality and well-being.” (Bakhtin 1986: 199-300). The pseudo-carnival atmosphere, that prevailed in anti-utopian novels, rejected “temporariness” as the defining characteristic of carnival, solving it in the role of “continuing permanence”. The “temporariness” of carnival is a relevant concept of “temporary idyll” – of the “temporary right” by means of which a man restricted by normed frames of life knows himself temporarily and satisfies his eternal thirst of freedom. The “permanence” of pseudo-carnival, on the contrary, plays into the hands of the “artificial structure”. Pseudo-carnival does not create “another life”, nor does it free man from the shackles of the existing order. As a slowed-down model of hardened reality and prevalent ideology, it strengthens the permanence of imposed rightness or dictatorship. Thus, e.g. in the novel “We” the “musical factory” each morning plays the “march of a single state”, the “numbers”, the “mean arithmetical” arranged in rows, march proudly along the central square of the city, while the “state poets” gather regularly at the court of the “divine benefactor” and dedicate eulogistic verses, hymns and odes to him. Systematicalness, “permanence” is a firm structural guarantor of the anti-utopian pseudo-carnival: pseudo-carnival is the leader of the existing order, accordingly, its end is the end of this order. The only way of preserving “permanence” is fear-panic fear – that accompanies the pseudo-carnival staging presented in anti-utopian novels.

            The spirit of “collectivity”, characteristic of carnival literature, is actively realized in the context of “endlessness”, manifested as a carrier of permanent pseudo-festive attitude. The pseudo-festive mood in the anti-utopian novel is created by such pseudo-ritual happenings, typical of carnival, as provoking familiar relations between representatives of different social states, abundant demonstration of eating and drinking and of sexual instincts, and of course, loading the plot with parodic motifs.

            Familiar relations imply the establishment of unceremonious and unacceptable forms of contact between representatives of differing social circles. Familiarities assumed specific meaning in the course of carnival festivals: they were extremely well adjusted to the people’s striving for universal equalization, and doing away with social boundaries and limits. But in the course of time, the familiar form lost its in-depth meaning, turning into a superficial reflection of carnival traditions. At the level of the anti-utopian novel it acquired a clear-cut pseudo-carnival meaning: familiarity, as the only form relations disregarding man’s personal dignity, emerged as the sole determining characteristic of anti-utopian reality. It became reflected integrated with the process of demonstrating eating-and-drinking and sexual instincts, i.e. of “material-bodily” (Bakhtin’s term) principles of life, typical of anti-utopian reality or endless pseudo-carnival.

            As well as the act of eating and drinking is an important characteristic of the pseudo-carnival reality of literary anti-utopia. “The carnival mood of the feast in anti-utopia”, Lanin points out, “turns into triumph of hard drinking. Intoxicated consciousness emerges as a literary motivation of absurd transformation of reality”. (Lanin 1993: 112). In my opinion, this statement stands in need of a definite specification.

            Feast is an inalienable attribute of elevated merry-making typical of a carnival. Excessive eating and drinking clearly reflects the festive and care-free atmosphere that is characteristic of common popular carnival. Furthermore, in Bakhtin’s words “There is no sad eating. Sadness and eating are incompatible (but death and eating are compatible). A feast invariably celebrates a victory – this is its property. Celebration with a drinking party is universal: it is the triumph of life over death. From this point of view it is equivalent to conception and birth. A victorious body involves a defeated world, and it will revive. Through this a feast, as a triumphant festival, and renewal in folk creativity very often performs the function of an end… But an end is always inspired by a beginning” (Bakhtin 1986: 313).

            I believe, the act of eating and drinking assumes a dual and ambivalent character in the pseudo-carnival setting typical of an anti-utopian novel. On the one hand, it emerges as a characteristic of an “artificial structure”, expressing the single-person dominance of totalitarian consciousness as a monolithic whole bound by a common idea. On the other hand, it is an indispensable means for the “awakening” of the non-conformist character. In the former case, a holiday feast assumes the form carousal, being as endless and uninterrupted as the pseudo-carnival itself. In the latter case, its significance is distinctly in-depth: the main character, in the cup, makes bold with the detestable reality, overcomes fear and states a novel model of outlook and philosophical conceptualization of the world. In other words, the gathering staged in works of anti-utopian genre, is an impulse provoking uninterrupted carousal, on the one hand, of the spiritual fervour of the main character, deepening self-consciousness and triumph over fear, on the other. Thus, pseudo-carnival party retains the coordinating properties of “inception and birth”, “revival” and reincarnation, identified by Bakhtin at the level of carnival festival. Promotion of sexual instincts in the anti-utopian genre constitutes one more aspect of demonstrating “material-bodily” principles. Sexual depravity is an indication of the leveling of one’s privacy, and sexual violence, of aggression, stemming from the dominant authorities. The phallus devours not only the most holy values of a “natural creature” but all components of intimate space as well. In my view, one point is significant here: “aggression” manifested in the form of “violation” in most cases turns into “consent”, pointing to the spider-like expansion of the sphere of influence of the whole, collective body to the space of “stranded” individuals. The so-called “puppet motif” of the individual that yields to brute force comes to the fore.

            Pseudo-carnival seeks to equalize all in the face of the existing ideological system, which is implemented at the level of literary text beyond the parodied motivation levels (see Ratiani 2009: 81-93).

            Parodying, as a specific device of the reflection, turned from the beginning into one of the determining genre laws. The establishment of parodying in literary anti-utopia, as a stylistic device deriving from the ancient genre of parody, became closely linked to the lowering of the motifs characteristic of the genre of parody. Parodying what was sacred became the main target of anti-utopian disparagement. This made possible further transformation of the principal anti-utopian opposition – ordered society/individual person – into a qualitatively new opposition: sacred/desacred. The motif of rendering desacred was obviously not alien to fiction (as confirmed way back by the biblical subject of the “Tower of Babel”), but the anti-utopian genre seems to have restored and developed its ambivalent conceptualization, revealed in medieval and Renaissance-period literature. The stylistic device of parodying, actively implemented in anti-utopian works, preserved “Renaissance ambivalence” and in condition of new times, accentuated not only the trend of losing not only of all basic spiritual values but tried the ground needed for their reincarnation and prepared it. Early in the 20th century, or in the period of complete regeneration of religious consciousness, opposition assumed extreme acuteness manifesting itself in such disparagement motifs as profanation of religion, parodying church themes and showing the demiurgic function in an ironic lights in the context of ambivalent anti-utopia. I believe, a brilliant textual proof of this view is the visit of D-503 to The Benefactor in the novel “We” and “Mister Wild’s” meeting with the “supreme ruler” Mustapha Mond in the novel “Brave New World”. I think that both dialogues carried on in the cited episodes represent an interpretation of the text of Dostoevski’s “Grand Inquisitor”, in which the “ruler” takes on the additional function of “prosecutor”, while the non-conformist character that of “defendant”. The former champions the “ordered system”, arguing its validity in the face of “individual anarchy”, the latter becomes fully aware of the groundlessness of this assertion and the absurd of the situation. “How simple everything is”, E. Zamyatin’s character admits – “banal and simple to the point of being ludicrous…laughter strangled me, ready to erupt” (Zamyatin 1989: 451). Parodic laughter, in this case emerges as that most important stage or valuable gate that implies “immanent transition or perturbation from slavery of a definite state to a definite state of freedom” (Averintsev 2001: 470). Transition to freedom denotes not being in freedom but the process of liberation whose positive or negative value depends on the positive or negative value of the condition from which man is being freed. Freedom to the character of anti-utopia implies freedom from the mask imposed by the official regime and culture, on the one hand, and from his own human weaknesses or the shadowy sides of his Ego, the other.

            The classic anti-utopias, created in the 20th century: Zamyatin’s “We”, Huxley’s “Brave New World”, Orwel’s “1984” and “Animal Farm”, Platonov’s “Chevengur”, Dambrowski’s “Faculty of Useless Subjects”, etc. seem to meet exactly the defined model genre of anti-utopia. One thing should be noted beyond doubt: 20th-century anti-utopian novels resemble gamut built on identical harmony, compositions overlapping conceptually, motivationally and structurally driven by a common force: protest against “the new world”. The “new world”, proposed by the builders of an ideal society, is pitch dark for the anti-utopian writers -  a blind space, where the characteristics I defined above and typical of the genre are realized. Clearly enough, each work is distinguished for its own individual style, manner and themes, but writing them in a single system seems quite permissible. Ground for this unification is provided by conceptualization of classic specimens anti-utopian novels as valuable material for the moulding of an “idea type” of “non-free society”. A classic anti-utopian novel is an artistic and literary expression of the fatal rebellion of the human Ego trampled under the press of the “new order”. A so-called met-text is created, reflecting an anti-utopian picture of the world.

The idea of an anti-utopian meta-text not only unifies the literature of anti-utopian genre but permits its inner determination. It is quite clear that I. Kafka’s “Fortress”, his “Trial”, V. Nabokov’s “Invitation to a beheading” and “Bend Sinister” – all considered to be works of anti-utopian genre – differ from “genre-rigorous” anti-utopias of Zamyatin, Huxley, Orwell and others. I. Efimov notes: “If the genre of anti-utopia in the form it took in the works of Zamyatin, Huxley, Orwell, Bradbury, and the Strugatskis are cognate with their novels (of Kafka and Nabokov – I.R.), the cognateness is rather outward than essential. The anti-utopian writers created their works on the basis of one and the same technique: choosing noteworthy trends and changes under way in their contemporary social, political and scientific-intellectual spheres of life, they began to think about what would happen if these trends developed with maximum intensity and politically exhaust itself. After this, action took place in an absurd-grotesque society in which such happening could take place. The works of Kafka and Nabokov are a different matter. They were not much interested in the problem of social order. This question was a good exercise, as it were, for expanding the creative fantasy of these writers… The device of grotesque hyperbolization, if used at all in the novels of Kafka and Nabokov, is directed not towards social trends, as is the case with anti-utopian writers, but to a deeper, strong spiritual conflicts that are embedded in human existence” (Efimov 1985: 82).

I cannot share the researcher’s somewhat one-sided view of the novels of Kafka and Nabokov evincing “only outward kinship” with the anti-utopian genre. The inclusion of the cited works of both writers in anti-utopian meta-text seems to me quite valid, being based not on “outward kinship” but on the principle of essential link. Such high-power texts as the “Fortress”, “The Trial”, “Invitation to a Beheading” or “Bend Sinister” was doubtless based  to a greater or lesser extent – on conceptual, motivational and structural characteristics typical of the anti-utopian genre. I present Jaqo’s Dispossessed, a novel by the Georgian writer Mikheil Javakhishvili, from the same angle.

Javakhishvili was the citizen of Soviet Georgia of the 1920s, oppressed with the ideology of communism. His attitude to the reality was impressed by extreme skepticism and negation. “Depravity has increased”, he wrote, “Brigandage, gossip, hunger, people walked in rage. All had turned into wolves. Word, promise, decency cost nothing… Georgia came to resemble a mangy dog, love was dead”. (Tsikarishvili 2001: 90), “The breaking of hearts, the blowing of brains out, the shredding of souls – this is our age” (Tsikarishvili 2001: 91). The future turned into a hollow and useless concept. The extremely destructive character of the obtaining situation prompted the writer to categorical assessment. Obviously, the imposed “ideal” order and realized utopian illusions drove the people to slavish submission: “Nature’s hearing was blocked, and heaven blind and bottomless. Only irony and obedience were left” (Tsikarishvili 2001: 91) It is crystal-clear that Javakhishvili’s greatest text - a work owing to whose finale, the writer was executed brutally in 1937, fully reflected the absurd-grotesque life of the society fed with utopian illusions.

The cited texts of Nabokov and Javakhishvili are reflecting above mentioned anti-utopian genre peculiarities.

The question logically arises: then what distinguishes the texts of Nabokov and Javakhishvili, as well as that of Kafka, from classic anti-utopias? What brings about the expansion and realization of “deeper, stronger spiritual conflicts?

In my view, in the general genre system of the anti-utopian meta-text the special nature of the anti-utopian novels of Nabokov and Javakhishvili is due not the motivational model typical of the anti-utopian genre – given more or less priority in their works – but to a specific conceptual model. It is the establishment of a different conceptual model that allows us to group anti-utopias into scientific, fantastic, satirical, etc. type anti-utopias. I believe, reading Nabokov’s cited works is advisable and corrects in the context of the genre model of eschatological anti-utopia. I conceptualize Javakhishvili’s novel Jaqo’s Dispossessed in the same context. Of course, I do not contend that the genre framework of eschatological anti-utopia is the only criterion of understanding the above cited novels (the world view and artistic depth of these tests make it impossible to localize them in the framework of some one literary model), but I think that model of eschatological anti-utopia is one of the important, essential and interesting angle of reading these valuable literary works.

Eschatologism, which determines the structure of this specific variety of anti-utopia points from the beginning to the writer’s in-depth relation to chronotopic models. The central problem of eschatological anti-utopia is not only a grotesque protest against the existing regime, but the awakening of a person lost in the depth of “ideal order”, “collective” pathos and “mass” ideology, the fatal rebellion of the individual Ego against reality, his total incompatibility with the existing temporal-spatial setting and demonstration of his striving towards an alternative time and space.

Accentuated is eschatological anti-utopia are both individual motifs and traits, discussed above and characteristic of anti-utopia, and the tendency to global conceptualization of time and space: in other words, the transfer is noted of Socio-historical anti-utopianism to the apocalyptic plane and deepening the moral function of the chronotope, which is obviously the prerogative of the protagonist.

Eschatological anti-utopia, that considers the categories of time and space in the context of deep eschatologism offers us a subjectivistic system of interpretation of time and space. The general structures of the system may be formulated in the following way:

1.       On the one hand, there exists conditionally “real” time and space or objective time and space in which an individual lives and which is subject to the objective laws of measurement and motion; on the other hand, there exists “internal” time and space or time and space worked out by the subject and which reflects the free will of the subject;

2.       Of these two forms of time and space the time and space worked out by the subject is valuable, as an important alternative of real parameters;

3.       Real, objective time is characterized by being divided and consecutiveness, while subjective time is an individual duration, a complex integration of “past” and “present” at the subject’s level of consciousness;

4.       Whereas “future is a law-governed quality of real time, in the context of subjective parameters it acquires an illusory form;

5.       Really flowing time is perceived as a finite “chronos” that must inevitably end, while subjectively worked out time performs the function of a transit coach, that frees the subject from the frames of time and transfers him to supra-temporal eternity;

6.       The main character always strives towards a valuable boundary that delimits   the earthly world, governed by diktat from the spiritual world free from time, which is attained through transformation;

7.       The road to the supra-temporal and supra-spatial world lies through the protagonist’s self-cognition, fear, sadness, repentance, death and resurrection.

Fight, resistance and realization of this extremely subjective paradigm in the context of eschatological anti-utopia became closely linked with thinking about man’s earthly fate, valuable boundary and boundlessness.

Integration of these specimens in the works of Nabokov and Javakhishvili within the framework of research into a single genre model is, in my opinion, equally based on diachronic or historico-cultural and synchronic or intra-literary factors: a) the conceptual levers of the cited novels are unequivocally related to the search for the Ego lost in the depth of the mass and of faith and God leveled by the effort of the rulers of the regime; b) the three novels meet the classic genre characteristics of literary anti-utopia and they deepen in the direction of the eschatological experience of the world; c) in the works of both writers time and space constitute aspects of subjective cognition, characteristics of the human reason, worked out as a result of inner perception, for the way out lies only in man – in the subject illuminated by the Ego, that awakens, fights and gives shape to his own cosmogony marked by eschatological depth.

The subjective paradigm of conceptualization of temporal and spatial parameters demonstrates the world view affinity of Nabokov and Javakhishvili, not only calling for but justifying study of the cited novels within the framework of a single phenomenon – the genre model of eschatological anti-utopia. The latter model brings to light the process of value transition of anti-utopian pathos from the criticism of state system to analysis of personal problems. Although such transposition was encoded at the inception of literary anti-utopia, it began to assume a large scale from the 1920s, fully according with the pathos of the epoch, in other words, the time came not only for recording phenomena rooted in history but for their radical assessment. The in-depth model of anti-utopia that took shape in the wake of acute social, scientific and fantastic anti-utopias envisages not only the substantiality of emphatically totalitarian, industrial and pragmatic reality, but its tragic consequence: total alienation of personality from the world and his striving to self-localization. The reason for this increased subjectivization is the breakdown of communication between man and his setting. Trust is replaced with skepsis, a character integrated in the world with a non-conformist character imprinted with the sign of autonomousness. The theme takes shape of a rejected individual trapped in the depth of a hypertrophied model of a dangerous world and looking for rescue. In this case, the possibility of surviving is not only a hope but a need, even an inevitable necessity, forcing man to look deep into the existence and work out an alternative reality beyond valued boundary, ambivalent liminal zone and most difficult, painful inner transformations. Such paradigm of chronotopic system in the above novels of Nabokov and Javakhsihvili is projected in-depth in a general motivational paradigm of literary anti-utopia, determining the conceptual and structural model of its specific variety, i.e. eschatological anti-utopia. My stand clearly does not lie in the assertion of the conceptual and structural identity of the works Nabokov and Javakhishvili. They are novelists of different styles. But I cannot but agree with N. Fry’s position, according to which literature is a conventional phenomenon and any concept or determination found in it is by itself conventional. From this viewpoint, the concept of “being determined” is probably conventional as well. A phenomenon being determined to a “greater” or “lesser” extent by the existing traditions is important in principle (though this aspect is obviously taken into account), but also the degree of integration of this event as a literary fact with epoch-making trends. From this standpoint, the idea of considering the above cited novels of Nabokov and Javakhishvili on a single plane is probably valid.

My analysis of the process rests on the comparative method, which carries out the trend of integration widespread and accepted in present-day literary theory, allowing to consider any literary phenomenon in the perspective of various national literatures and to assess it as a general literary phenomenon.



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Volume 4, Issue 1


Rustaveli Institute of Georgian Literature

Georgian Electronic Journal of Literature