Alternative Literature I: The Thieves of Language
Vladimir Makanin's novels that appear in the period of glasnost provide a good illustration of the difference between alternative literature and established trends. Experimental in form, employing fantasy to demystify accepted truths, Makanin's work breaks new ground to be further explored by other alternative writers. To the Russian reader of the 1980s, Makanin was both different and familiar; the technique and the philosophical bent of Makanin's prose were relatively new; Makanin's world, however, was easily recognizable. If Makanin's aim is to transcribe the history of his own generation by focusing on the mythological consciousness and its workings in language, Mikhail Kuraev uses fantasy to evaluate historical discourse itself, revealing in the process its dependence on cultural constructs. Very broadly speaking, Makanin and Kuraev are fascinated by the power of representation, using the appearance of legends or diverse accounts of history as examples of that power's processes and strategies.