Two streams, two genres, one memory

Natalija Dovhanych

pdf Two streams, two genres, one memory

The prose discourse of Maidan is constructed through the specifical genre modifications, in which crossing boundaries between publicistic, historical and literary style fade, between memoirs and novels. The abrupt change of the system of genres shows the capacity of literature to permanent renovation and its possibility to react to the requirements and demands of the historical era. The emergence of the first texts shows the beginning of a new critical moment in the development of literature, that demands new methods for analyzing and interpretation. Some important questions are revealed: how can we name new genres and what is the base of these genres? How genre influences the representation of events and whether using some kind of genre can be the risk for the author?

The movement of texts, which appeared as resonance to every event, is realized quickly and chaotically. Those literature «effect of boomerang» cause the appearance of phenomenon natalija4that could be called as «synchronic history» – the history, that is written by the eye-witness, participants or overseer-critics, who use the texts of different kinds of linguistic styles as the material. In this context, the literary prose becomes one of the accelerators of the appearance of such history.

The book «Ukrainian history, Russian Politics, European future» written by Timoti Snajder was published in the period of Maidan and includes his articles dedicated to Maidan. In this book Timoti Snajder uses the retrospection to the World War II and states that the memory about the events are often formed by people, which haven`t participated in them and this leads to constant speculations and abuses over the historical truth. He says: «In the nowadays politics post-war propaganda plays considerably bigger role than immediate experience of war». This thesis of special importance allows us to observe the texts about Maidan from different point, particularly, to view it as the mentioned above synchronic history, which tries to create the original sequence of events, fix the change of sensations, thoughts and perception. That`s why an eye-witness is in the center of such history as its author and the creator of the memory about Maidan.

The two trends of the development of prose have become prominent: 1) big epic genres, which are connected with the events on Maidan or which are exclusively dedicated to them; 2) the anthologies of brief stories, novelettes, texts-reflections, popular posts in Internet. The opposition of these streams can be demonstrated using the samples of the texts. That’s why for analysis I have chosen the novel written by young previously unknown author Mykola Rudnevich «I’m from Heavenly Hundred» and posts collected from the Internet called «The chronicle of eye-witnesses: 9 month of resistance».

The question whether novels could be created in such a brief time was quite critical as long as novel is considered to be a genre which demands the deep re-thinking of the selected materials. However, the analysis of the one of the first novels about Maidan called «І’m from Heavenly Hundred» has provoked even more questions, regarding not only the processing of the topic, but also the author’s skills. The author chooses specific narrative strategy to embody his intention. It is not just first-person narration or intimate dairy inscriptions; it is the narration after death. The time dimension becomes special there: every chapter works as a reverse timer of counting out to the death of main character. This is what the titles of chapters tell us, staring with the title «In seven days» and ending with «The last day». At the heart of the plot there is a story about young student, who has simply life, a lot of hobbies and who decides to go to Maidan and after several days he is mortally wounded. The novel is figuratively divided into two parts: the story about main character’s life before Maidan and directly about the events on Maidan.

However, it is interesting that the first part has far less                                                  artistic value because author creates the caricature, ideal character, whose language is a chaotic combination of surzhik, slang and literary language. Though, the second part, which tells us about character’s stay on Maidan and his death, is saturated with emotional pictures, this is not the author’s merit. It is all because of the Maidan’s events and symbols, which mostly speak for themselves. Some separate parts, which depict internal life on Maidan, contain only superficial review. The author doesn’t have recourse to hold out the selected narrative strategy (the first person narration). At last it seems that the main character perceives events, which are taking place, indirectly and artificially displays surprising for him courage.

The novel makes dual impression. On one hand, it is unprofessional writing, and on another hand, it has not bad description of events. So how can we explain its popularity among the readers? One of the features of literature about Maidan is manifested here. It is a phenomenon of absolute perception of the text’s codes. There is no historical distance between us and the text; every event and name are very speaking and significant, because they are the personal experience of lots of people. And it is not about author’s skills or authority, the thing is that Maidan became an emotional shock, it was impossible not to talk about it, not to think, not to read. Every text that has appeared becomes open for the readers before it has been filled with the personal perception of the events on Maidan.

So, why does this novel provoke bad reference? I was looking for the answer to this question for a very long time. During the first analysis I thought that such impression of the novel was caused by the author’s incompetence and bad linguistic style of the text. Today my answer is absolutely different. I think that this novel is the pattern of speculation on the memory, moreover, a very early speculation, because memory about Maidan’s events is still very bright and painful. Why is it the speculation? It may be explained in such a way. After the death, the main character of the novel calls himself «The hero of Heavenly Hundred», so, in some sense, he raises himself. That is, the reader is forced to identify the story of this fictitious character with the story of real people, who deserve this honorary title. This situation results in the communicative failure as a reader realizes the factious nature of the novel and the truthfulness of its events at the same time, he or she understands that the author cannot be trusted. At present, I think this novel with such author`s purpose was published unseasonably and was the conjuncture, which was directed at the satisfaction of market demands. When memory about Maidan still remains so painful, it is forbidden to play with it in any way.

Let’s go back to another stream. In the prose discourse of the literature about Maidan novelettes, stories and texts-reflections, that can`t be qualified as a certain genre, are becoming the most prominent after poetical texts. The opposition of two streams became visible. The first stream – the anthology of short stories written by popular Ukrainian authors; the second stream – the edition of popular posts from social networks, which could be called «virtual novelettes».The similarity to the genre of literary novelette, which is characterized by the sharp development of plot, unexpected end, the absence of wide descriptions, the story starts from the middle, is achieved very simply.

The pecularity of the posts about Maidan from social networks was very similar: the most saturated, emotional and informative exposition at the same time, in which the story is aimed at the unexpected ending. The book with such an expressive name as «The chronicle of eye-witnesses» is one of the best books about Maidan today. It includes the most popular posts, which have nearly thousands of sharings. These posts are well-regulated in chronological order. This chronicle allows us to trace how ordinary people depict their experience, and incredible spreading of these posts confirms that the depicted experience was common and clear for many people.

The name of the book refers to the well-known Ukrainian literary monument of the 17-th century – «The chronicle of eye-witness». The editorial staff called the book about Maidan «The chronicle of eye-witnesses». So we can see replacement of singular by plural. It is a very important detail, because the history of these events couldn`t be represented with the one-way observation. The short stories, which are pulled out from the life of ordinary people, strike not only with their openness and frankness, but with the emotional background, which creates a deep suggestive influence on the reader.

The following is the bright example of a virtual novelette from the book «The chronicle of witnesses» written by Tetiana Oharkova:

«I have been working on Maidan for more than a week. I haven’t seen my daughter for a week. At last, I took her home. We are listening to the conference of Yanyk [Yanukovich]. A word “rodina” sounded.

Darusia: Mum, what does it mean “rodina”?

Me: Motherland. Do you understand what “Motherland” is?

Darusia: Motherland is the place where people are dying».

As we can see, the impression of the text is made without preceding story about the characters’ lives, without the gradual development of the episode. We receive only the most important psychological moment. So, ordinary people, who often have no relation to the literature, in their texts-reflections create the effect of shock. The professional authors could work on creation of this effect their whole life.

At the same time «The chronicle of eye-witnesses» gives impulse to observe the literature about Maidan as a sublimated «complex of survivor» as these people who are alive feel guilty for this and have a psychological need to share these memories. This complex emerges as a result of trauma. American sociologist Jeffrey С. Alexander assumes that «the trauma occurs when individuals and groups feel that they have been subjected to a natalija2horrendous event that has left indelible marks upon their consciousness, leaving marks in their memories forever, and changing their personality in a fundamental and irrevocable way». A.Assman has found some very well-turned image to determine the phenomenon of trauma in the remembrances of Rut Kljuger about the Holocaust. It is the image of not operated leaden bullet, which «as an inseparable part of the human`s body remains not to be assimilative to the structure of personality; it is a strange substance, which wrecks the category of traditional logic as a distinction between internal and external, presence and absence».

On the basis of trauma’s instances in literary narrations modern studies refer to the highlighting of the new beyond-the-styles type – «the literature of survivors». This term is used for the texts written by the eye-witnesses of Holocaust. But such term could be useful for the wide range of literary phenomena, in which it is possible to observe the presence of the eye-witness of horrible events, who, influenced by the complex of survivor, wants to tell about things he has seen. A great part of the texts from the book «The chronicle of eye-witnesses» could be interpreted as the sample of the literature of survivors. All these texts are the reconstruction of the memory. They embody complicated traumatic experience, sharing means partially getting rid of painful feelings and impressions.

Many stories state that in the life of every person and in the life of society «the point of no return» has come, and after it none of eye-witnesses could be the same as they have been. «The complex of survivor» can be easily seen in the texts, which tell about shooting down on Maidan: «I have lived much more, they should have killed me», «I went to the assault that Thursday and survived in order to write about this now» etc. The space of social networks gives people the possibility to be heard and to fill understanding and support from others. Today these texts are perceived with not less sensibility than during the events on Maidan. They contain not a good-made story or truthful tale, but the alive feelings, which could be passed only from the one who has seen everything with one’s own eyes. The chronological arrange of texts allows to observe the way of development of human feelings and emotions provoked by Maidan. We can see what impresses and hurts the most. These short stories create a synchronic history, which along the historical side, puts forward the internal world of the eye-witness as the way to express himself.

The comparison of these two examples of the prose discourse of Maidan allows to conclude that in the literature about Maidan the artistic fiction loses its expressive function and could be qualified as a dangerous game with the memory. While the texts written by the ordinary participants of events have not only the features of artistic value, but also a bigger influence on the reader, who trusts the individual experience of the one who has seen everything with their eyes more than those who tries to create the bad copy of the reality, which was well-known for millions of Ukrainians.

Nevertheless we can only guess which texts will remain in our history and history of our literature. Today, every text is significant for the reader who buys his own book about Maidan with some thrill. However, the main question is how can these texts touch those, for whom Maidan isn`t or won`t be a personal experience?