Long live the Kommunalka! The tension between postmodern poetics and post-soviet nostalgia in the work of Andrei Makine

Issue: 
Autumn 2016
Author(s): 

The article explores the nostalgia–imbued representations of the communal apartment (kommunalka) and its extension, the communal courtyard, found in Andreï Makine’s novels. Conceived by Lenin who in 1917 decreed the expropriation and partition of individual dwellings, instead of a ‘socialist idyll’ the kommunalka became ‘a socialist farce’, ‘an institution of social control’ and ‘the breeding ground of police informants’. Yet, in Makine’s prose this emblematic figure of fragmentation becomes one of wholeness, and thus a means of offsetting the sense of loss thematised by the Franco–Russian author’s writing and reflected in the narrative structure of his novels. Given the postmodern aura of Makine’s work, in the present article I frame this apparent paradox with the polemics concerning postmodernism’s attitude towards the past; whereas some (Eagleton, Jameson) associate the cultural movement with nostalgia, others (Hutcheon) consider it as being far from glorifying the past or recovering that past as edenic. Consequently, while supporting the position of postmodernism’s detractors, Makine’s idealised figurations of communal living spaces betray the writer’s longing for his homeland’s communist past and, correlatedly, for the sense of empowerment and plenitude that he evidently derived from Soviet Russia’s superpower status. 

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Twentieth Century Communism Journal Issue 11: Memory and Nostalgia