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Ethnofuturism in the Udmurt Literature
Viktor Shibanov
Udmurt State University, Izhevsk

In the end of 1980's and the beginning of 1990's, Udmurtia woke up from the extended Soviet utopian dream and entered the reality. An impressive and absurd picture full of stunning combinations of incompatible things opened to the eyes of the young generation of Udmurts. The landscape included the impassable dirt of village tracks accompanied by most advanced military and nuclear technologies, the abundance of petroleum and wood, the production of Kalashnikov machine guns, the terrifying poverty of common people, and the futile hopes for subsidies from Moscow. There were primeval bounties of the nature and there were ancient layers of musical and mythological culture. It was the land of great Pyotr Tchaikovsky and the cemetery of chemical weapons. And what is also important, the Finno-Ugrian world appeared to have been dissolved in the Slavic and Turkic worlds. Internal borders between the east and the west, between the forest areas and the steppe were missing. The absence of borderlines has turned to be critical for many people of culture.

New literature did not, certainly, appear from nothing but had its predecessors. Remarkable in this regard is the poetry by Flor Vasilyev (1934-78) and Vladimir Romanov (1943-89): in the Soviet period it needed courage to turn to your ethnic roots and to discover a pagan inside yourself.

The first messengers of the new perception of reality were the short novel by Lidia Nyankina Au-au! Yake inbamys gozhyos ("Ho! Ho! or Zigzags In the Sky", 1993) and the Sergei Matveyev's novel Shuzi ("A Fool", 1993, published in 1995). In these two books the features of the new quest were manifested most clearly. In an attempt to elucidate the new phenomenon critics turned first to the Russian literary experience - however, none of its popular terms (conceptualism, socialist realism, "metametaforism", "metabolism", etc.) did adequately reflect the essence of processes that took place in the deep layer of people's culture. It seems that ethnofuturism is the only term to come closely to the essence of experiments by Udmurts authors like S. Matveyev, L. Nyankina and others. This term won recognition after a conference on ethnofuturist held in Estonia. Still, one must not forget that a theory is always poorer compared with real processes in literature. Somewhat later it became apparent that features of this new style are in works of other Udmurt authors as well. Good examples are the poetry by Mikhail Fedotov, Rafit Minnekuzin, Erik Batuyev, Tatyana Tchernova, the prose by Oleg Chetkarev, Vyacheslav Ar-Sergi, dramatic compositions by Pyotr Zakharov. The same tendency can be observed in painting (Valentin Belykh, Vasily Mustayev, Yuri Lobanov), in music (Ivan Grigoryevykh, Nadezhda Utkina), in theatre (Olga Aleksandrova) and elsewhere.

What is ethnofuturism? How do I understand this phenomenon? Ethnofuturism is just like a bird with two wings. Ethnic points at the connection with original folk and traditional mythology, while futurism means searching for a place in the contemporary postmodern world and the aspiration to be competitive. The two components put together suggest the transfer of either a modern message in the archaic form or of an archaic message in the modern form. Either way this means the struggle for the future. One of the wings in the patriarchal village and the other is in the industrial town. The former means folklore and myths, the latter means modern and postmodern culture. The former points at the past, the latter points at the future. At the junction of these two elements élan vital is formed, as it has been correctly pointed by the Estonian authors in ethnofuturism M. Pärl-Lõhmus, Kauksi Ülle, Andres Heinapuu and Sven Kivisildnik in the Finnish magazine Synteesi (1994, No. 4). Finnish professor of literature Kari Sallamaa has observed that ethnofuturism is mostly typical to "small" literatures that have liberated from the yoke of totalitarian ideology and from the big brother's trusteeship. Above all, ethnofuturism is in need among the young urban Udmurts.

In theoretical form, I have already singled out some features of ethnofuturism in my article Ethnofuturism in Udmurtia. Here I would only briefly review these features.

Firstly, the modern world is pictured as absurd (nonsensical and turned inside out). The world is disorganised and the chaos prevails. The action mostly takes place in a "horrible town" (L. Nyankina, O. Tchetkarev), for example in a hostel, and the mythological evil from beyond rushes the world (R. Minnekuzin, M. Fedotov). The chaos seems to be a norm, yet there is some notion of the ideal order. The character perceives freedom as distressing. Thus in the short novel by L. Nyankina Au-au! Yake inbamys gozhyos, the main character drops in an erotic restaurant to find that the waiter is a three-eyed creature who gives the guest a wink, etc.

Secondly, the text is regarded as a "waste-paper basket" to collect miscellaneous casual stuff and virtually everything that comes into the author's mind. Modern science refers us in such occasions to intertextuality or polystylistics (pointing at the abundance of styles and the multitude of discourses in the same text). This technique of connecting incompatible into a whole allows the author to treat, in a short text, virtually everything including politics, ancient myths, sensuality and the self-perception of a human as the centre of the universe. Particularly remarkable in this regard is the layer of quotations from literature found in S. Matveyev's novel and poetry. The positive side of intertextuality and of connecting the incompatible is that young Udmurt authors boldly treat mythology, thus "snatching" this area from the exclusive possession of academic ethnographers and mythologists.

Thirdly, the main character (mostly a narrator in the first person) tends to be a person of strange and peculiar kind defined as the schizonarcissic type (see: I. P. Smirnov. Psychodiachronology. - Moscow, 1994. - p. 338-347). Many a Udmurt reader find it difficult to grasp that depicting a schizonarcissist is just a technique, and therefore ascribe the character's streaks to the "mean author". The most severe criticism was directed against S. Matveyev in relation to his novel Shuzi ("A Fool"; the Udmurt word shuzi sounds similar to "schizo"). The sexual adventures of his main character were interpreted only as an imitation of Vladimir Nabokov's Humbert Humbert, while the point was missed that the seven women in liaison with this "Don Juan" were a symbol of the bygone harmony. In our times, this harmony collapsed like a broken mirror and is now scattered over different characters. All attempts by the character to restore it are in vain.

Hence, if we view ethnofuturism as an option in the literary process, by applying communicative analysis we can single out the following notions and symbols that make up the structure of the text: (1) the myth in the kingdom of chaos, (2) fragmentary thinking, (3) perception of the world as a text, (4) the schizo-narcissist complex.

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