Poetics of Being Free. Shukshin and the Tradition of “Anarchic” Literature





Vassily Shulshin, anarchism in literature, poetics of anarchism, Stepan Razin and anarchism, Stepan Razin and literature, Russian novel, Soviet literature


The paper describes the cultural and historical context between 19th and 20th centuries which witnesses a rise of a particular “anarchic” tradition (we take the precaution to distinguish such a creative stance from the theoretical and/or polemical "anarchist" production). Our intention is to inscribe into this context Vassily Shukshin's novel “I came to set you free” and some of his short prose. Showing the importance of the anarchist movement for the political and cultural turmoil of this era, we stress the strong connection that in Western countries as well as in Russia linked the anarchist perception of world and/or society to that of the avant-garde. The Russian situation owes its specific nature, among other factors, to the representation of Stepan Razin who epitomizes the spirit of revolutionary anarchy for the modernist artists and writers. The poetry and prose od Velimir Khlebnikov, Vassily Kamensky, Alexander Shiryaevets in the 1910s–1920s, the novels of Alexey Chapygin (1927), Stepan Zlobin (1951), Vassily Shukshin (1971) constitute a filiation, the presence whereof throughout the Soviet period is in itself a problem to tackle for a literary historian. In the last part of the paper we present a brief analysis of the Shukshin texts; we conclude that not only the Razin's figure brings his prose close to the “anarchic” tradition; the same could be said of his favorite characters, “chudiki”, extravagant searchers of freedom, as well as of such themes as fighting against the time (a frequent subject in the “anarchic” literature of Khlebnikov, Platonov etc.).

Author Biography

Leonid Heller, University of Lausanne

Prof. Dr. University of Lausanne

University of Lausanne

CH-1015 Lausanne, Switzerland


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How to Cite

Heller, L. “Poetics of Being Free. Shukshin and the Tradition of ‘Anarchic’ Literature”. Pitannâ lìteraturoznavstva, no. 100, Dec. 2019, pp. 7-24, doi:10.31861/pytlit2019.100.007.



Poetics. Historical Poetics