Laughing at Tragedy
DOI link for Laughing at Tragedy
Laughing at Tragedy book
Elena Chizhova, a contemporary Russian novelist who became famous after winning the Russian Booker Prize for her novel The Time of Women (2009), attempts to revise official Soviet history through her own version of Soviet Shakespeare. In response to the official narrative that saw the Soviet Union as the most direct heir to Shakespeare and world literature as a whole, Chizhova’s work offers a forceful expression of cultural elitism: it shows that Soviet Shakespeare has never been available to all. Her novel Little Zaches argues that Soviet masses frequently misunderstood Shakespeare, missed moments of psychological or linguistic complexity on stage, and primarily enjoyed farce and crude comedy. Written from a teenage girl’s point of view and based on Chizhova’s own experience of performing Shakespeare as a schoolgirl in the 1960s Leningrad, the novel presents Shakespeare as an antidote to the Soviet emphasis on collectivity. Chizhova’s novels welcome the collapse of communism as an opportunity for the global cultural elite to reclaim the literary canon.