The late 1980s and early 1990s saw an intensive re-examination and change of long lasting cultural paradigms and value systems in Ukrainian culture. A period of transition and crisis, these years culminated in 1991 with the achievement of political independence and the constitution of Ukraine as a discrete political, economical and cultural entity. This event was preceded by diverse processes of transformation. One of the first social institutions to be affected was literature. The proliferation of dissenting voices that dared to condemn the politicization of culture was, perhaps, one of the most obvious and certain indications of the literary institution’s intramural reorganization. Authors such as Oksana Zabuzhko, Iurii Andrukhovych, Viktor Neborak and others, clearly pronounced the necessity of re-conceptualizing the function of artists in society and declared, in a purely modernist manner, that art should not serve political and social ends. The challenge, as the dissenting authors saw it, was to return to literature its normal function. Zabuzhko felicitously phrased it thus: “the type [of literature] that could devote itself without any reservations to things ‘eternal’ (the only thing that ultimately interests art!), to primordial questions of love and death, to the essence of being human and to the meaning of life.”‘ In this context, the publication of Andrukhovych’s “scandalous” novella Rekreats,2 was a daring attempt, a real intellectual challenge. Given the historical moment and the complex narrative structure of the text itself,3 it is hardly surprising that Andrukhovych’s work initiated a debate on the subject of its literary qualities and cultural value.4
As one critic pointed out, the readership at the time clearly split into two “opposing camps.”5 On the one hand there were readers, representing predominantly the Diaspora, who expressed a clearly negative judgment. In their opinion, the novella displayed a “lack” of national pride and respect for the cultural history and literary traditions of Ukraine. They accused Andrukhovych of amorality and “antipatriotism.” Particularly interesting in this regard are the letters to the editors of Suchasnist’.6 Those criticizing Andrukhovych’s novella used designations such as “khaltura”7 and “ornohrafiia”8; the novel was described as an “abuse” [znushchannia] of the native language and Shevchenko’s word. A reader from Ukraine was even more sarcastic. She defined Andrukhovych’s style as “pseudo-intellectual toilet pornography” [tualetnoporno-psevdo-intelektual’nyi.] 10
On the other hand, the novella attracted the interest of some prominent Ukrainian literary critics who approached it as a highly sophisticated, postcolonial and postmodernist discourse. Not surprisingly, the positive readings presented a totally different picture. Andnukhovych was praised for his sober realism and ability to speak boldly, without false patriotic pathos about his society. In Mykola Riabchuk’s view, the novella was an explicitly satirical text that assumed a playful and carnivalesque stance, and was endowed with a lively plot, realistic characters and a clever denouement. 12 The interpretations of M. Pavlyshyn and Slobodanka M. Vladiv-Glover were in the same vein.13
My interest in the novella is not inspired by the above mentioned discussion. The focus of the present analysis is on the use of folkloric images, techniques and narrative patterns, and their “processing” under conditions of contemporary literary experimentation. More specifically, I am interested in the semiotic mechanism(s) that govern the renascence of the national folkloric inventory in the discourse of recent Ukrainian prose. I consider, Iurii Andrukhovych’s novella Rekreats as an illustration of these mechanisms.14
My study advances the idea that, today, the centuries-old oral tradition of Ukrainian folklore is questioned and ambivalently re-discovered as part of the modem Ukrainian self. It appears that, at present, folkloric texts are denied the elevated status of being the ultimate embodiments of the national psyche. They are subjected to a consumable, sarcastic revival that leads to their irrevocable transformation and modernization. Established as a generic semiotic system of primarily aesthetic value, the texts of “authentic” Ukrainian folklore are selectively approached by contemporary authors. The inherited common stock of highly suggestive symbolic representations is explored with the intention of discovering images and patterns that are well-suited to express the modern, disillusioned and cynical thinking of post-war generations. As a result, the oral tradition is being appropriated without excessive “nationalist” sentiments. Moreover, the folkloric inventory is being tackled in a sober, ironical and often mockingly playful manner, becoming primarily an expression of the writer’s subjective aesthetic ideology. r Typical examples of such cynical treatment are found in poems like “Rusalochka” (The Mermaid) by Natalka Bilotserkivets’; “Kraina ditei” (A Homeland of Children) and “Kozak Iamaika” (The CossackJamaica) by Iurii Andrukhovych; and “Lift” (The Elevator), “Didukh,”16 and “Mlyn” (The Mill) by Mykola Myroshnychenko. Among prose texts, one can cite Iurii Vynnychuk’s short story Vyshyvanyi svit (An Embroidered World), Valery Shevchuk’s novella Misiatseva zozul’ka iz lastiviachoho hnizda (The Moon’s Cuckoo from the Swallow’s Nest), and many others.
It is important to note here that I employ the concept of cynicism without implying a pejorative connotation. Instead, I adopt Peter Sloterdijk’s definition, which recognizes modern cynicism as an “enlightened false consciousness” that knows itself to be without illusions.17 In his Critique of Cynical Reason Sloterdijk uses the term to express the “state of consciousness that follows after naive ideologies and their enlightenment.”18 In agreement with this critic, I think that the modern mind, having learned from historical experiences, refuses to take things for granted or allow itself to be blinded by cheap optimism. In other words, I propose that the romantic admiration of Ukrainian folk tales and songs is gone. Equally forsaken is the philosophy of love and passion.19
The theoretical paradigm of this study is quite eclectic and includes ideas from three different scholarly fields, namely semiotics, anthropology and literary theory. At the most abstract level Yurii Lotman’s semiotic theory of culture informs my general frame of reference.20 My analysis is strongly influenced by Umberto Eco’s theory of codes, as elaborated in his treatise on general semiotics. In my view, the process of folklore modification is essentially a semiotic process, which in terms of Eco’s theory can be defined as “changing of codes.”21 I also refer to Keith Green’s and Elena Semino’s models of discourse analysis.22
By applying such an “eclectic” approach, I hope to achieve a more comprehensive symptomatic reading of Andrukhovych’s novella. I read the latter as a very complex aesthetic sign that creates a multifaceted cultural “object” whose meaning we can better grasp if we use an interdisciplinary lens to examine it.23 The epistemological premise of my textual analysis is the view that “the idea of literary study as a discipline is precisely the attempt to develop a systematic understanding of the semiotic mechanisms of literature, the various stages of its forms.”24 I am inclined to agree with Jonathan Culler that literary works are not interpreted only for the sake of scholarly literary debate, but are explored, from a subjective point of view, with the aim of acquiring and expanding the “knowledge of how literature operates-its range of possibilities and characteristic structures.”25
Besides assuming a semiotic perspective, I rely on the viewpoint of Roger J. Foster and Ulf Hannerz, two contemporary anthropologists, whose articles on the “making” of national cultures in the modem conditions of a “global ecumene” are particularly interesting. Many of their observations and theoretical insights help to understand some of the problems connected with the “latent” ideological dimension of Andrukhovych’s text. My purpose, therefore, is to show that the renascence of the Ukrainian oral lore heritage within contemporary literary discourse is a manifestation of an ideological commitment that each author, consciously or unconsciously, makes.26 I assume that a writer’s choice to revive and explore the suggestive potentials of Ukrainian folklore imagery and techniques is, more or less, a form of “political” engagement because it renders a clear expression of the author’s “national-cultural identity.”27 On the other hand, the totality of idiosyncratic acts that go into the revival of Ukrainian oral tradition can be seen as a form of cultural practice conducive to the “making” of Ukrainian national culture in the present conditions. In other words, I maintain that in the discursive practices of contemporary Ukrainian authors the inventory of oral lore is re-discovered not only because it presents a powerful expressive medium that can be used for the purpose of pure aesthetic literary experimentation. Modern writers turn to the common cultural heritage because it constitutes an important system of values and norms which, in terms of the American anthropologist Anthony Wallace, are considered essential for the “continued well-being and self-respect” of community members.28 This is why I assume that by means of its modernization, i.e., “recreation,” the common cultural heritage is realigned with contemporary historical conditions, thereby enhancing the “invention,” continuation and preservation of Ukrainian national culture.29
I began the game of interpreting Andrukhovych’s work by using the title of his novella as a metaphor for the manner in which the oral tradition is treated in his text. There are two episodes that are of primary concern to me-namely, the experiences of Hryts’ Shtundera and Iurko Nemyrych during the night of the carnival.30
I will commence this discussion with a synoptic review of the symbolism of the novella’s title within the context of the narrative structure and the writer’s ideological contemplations. Andrukhovych’s title is extremely condensed semantically and manifests the author’s intention to construct a “polysemous” fictitious world. The abstract cultural unit31 “recreation” is signaled through the use of the noun’s plural form, which suggests that within the novella there are many creative acts that constitute the narrative’s imaginary reality.
First, to outline the sememe’s denotative and connotative variables, it is necessary to recall the various associative chains. In Andrukhovych’s narrative the framing of the semantic field is deliberately fluid; the options for interpreting the title are not incompatible but complementary. The polyvalence of the sememe’s meaning is overtly emphasized since there are no other syntactic restrictions. Readers, therefore, are free to choose any of the meaningful possibilities to make sense of the word. In my view, their choice is governed by at least three codes which, in general, would define the interpretative process.32
The first semantic line is determined by a denotation, whereby the word “recreation” realizes a cultural unit correlated with “entertainment,” “leisure,” “fun,” “rest” and “recovery.” The code is essentially behavioral. The circumstantial connotations imply that the reading of the novella will be a type of “recreational” activity similar to other forms of entertainment such as listening to music, watching a film, etc. Thus, the text promises to be light and moreover shows a deliberate intention to amuse. In other words, from the very beginning-and quite in accord with the ideology of contemporary aesthetic “consumerism”-the narrative defines itself as a sort of game. Supplementary connotations, evocative of the context of communication (i.e., reading), suggest that the game is a literary one.
The next semantic axis invites readers to follow another associative chain realized by a denotation according to which the word “recreation” is linked with an abstract cultural unit (change). In this semantic exercise the “recreation” sememe insists upon the re-discovery of the term’s primary context of use and requires from readers a kind of “morphological” analysis, which might include recalling the Latin origin of the word. With the help of their “linguistic” competence, the interpreters would be able to complete the necessary morphological “deconstruction,” and to recognize the meaningful unit as a semantic equivalent of the phrase “creating anew.” The linguistic sign, then, denotes a process of transformation. The metamorphosis is seen as an outcome of a creative re-structuring by means of which an old and known entity becomes new and different (strange). In this process, the actant’s imagination is the ruling force. The second associative chain provides the readers with a code that stresses the notions of “fantasy” and “novelty,” i.e., the “literary artistic” code. A more specific contextual connotation revives the concept of “artifact,” “artistry” and a “work of art.” The author, therefore, implicitly diverts the focus of reference toward the process of literary creation, and toward language as the main expressive medium. This, essentially, becomes the subject-matter of Andrukhovych’s novella. In other words, the aesthetic ideology of his text insists upon the interpreters’ active participation. Even before the novella begins, the author exerts a form of intellectual pressure, which persistently reminds that, in order to enter the proposed fictitious realm, readers have to rely strongly upon their specific literary knowledge. More significantly, the writer discloses the coding mechanism that will rule the re-creation of the novella’s imaginary world. The mechanism, as noted above, is based on conceptualizing the author-text-reader communication as a form of intellectual (literary) game.
The third semantic axis of the title is culturally very specific. At this point of the reading, the meaning is kept hidden from the reader as a “secret.” Its engendering context are certain “ritual” practices of the seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Ukrainian academic elite.33 If this reading is correct, then I am tempted to presume that making this historically and culturally concrete association available to his audience, constitutes an important part of the author’s intellectual game. Moreover, as I will show later, the novella contains another type of “ritual” practice linked predominantly to “folk” narratives and fantastic stories. Thus, the two semantic options represent a coherent picture of Ukrainian culture’s past by introducing the “high” and the “low” variables of “ritual” celebrations. The code guiding the interpretation in this case is, therefore, exclusively “national.”
In summary, it appears that the novella’s title outlines for its addressees a very broad horizon of initial expectations because it offers them nothing more than a vague semantic field, and several codes to determine the interpretative process. There is one last and important comment to make with respect to the symbolism of the novella’s title. By using a loan word,34 Andrkhovych’s lexical choice creates tension. This has a definite impact on the sememe’s ideological dimension, and accordingly, on its content. The word suggests associations with notions such as “unconventional,” “pretentious,” “elitist” and “educated.” If the association is correct, then, one may explain Andrukhovych’s lexical choice as a form of idiosyncratic “overcoding.”35 It is an extra-semantic marker that indicates the type of audience he addresses. On the other hand, it is also a “warning” to readers that the writer’s literary game will be a sophisticated intellectual play, requiring high literary competence and a vivid imagination. In my opinion, Andrukhovych’s lexical choice also displays a certain dose of didacticism and ambition to “educate.”36 It should be noted that this tension between the “known” and “unknown,” the “modern” and the “conventional,” etc., is affirmed later as the reading progresses. The narrative reveals a variety of cultural contradictions (“authentic” Ukrainian culture vs. its emigre counterpart, for example) and ideological juxtapositions (Soviet vs. traditional Cossack culture; Soviet vs. the culture of the nineteenth-century Ukrainian nobility; modern vs. traditional Ukrainian culture; Ukrainian culture; LTkrainian culture; Ukrainian culture before perestroika vs. Ukrainian culture after this period; and so forth). Readers are forced to recognize these, and to make sense of them.
The next “clue” is another test of the reader’s literary competence. The author explicitly formulates the genre structure of his text. By doing this, he introduces a convention that sets limitations on the literary semiosis. The term “povist”’37 introduces a genre code, which the narrative structure in the course of its development successfully tries to resist. Andrukhovych’s genre designation seems to emphasize the author’s intention to play a sophisticated literary game with his imaginative “interlocutors.” The generic sememe that premises the term’s meaning is best expressed through the notion of “telling,” but the noun’s root comes from an ancient Indo-European lexeme which produces in old Church Slavonic, and by extension in Ukrainian, derivative lexical forms such as “to know,” “knowledge,” “news,” “message,” and finally, “wise.”38 For the purposes of the present analysis, it is also significant to recall that the contemporary Ukrainian linguistic equivalent of the English cultural unit /witch/ is another derivative word from the same generic sememe.39 Some of these meanings are current in contemporary Ukrainian, others are part of its past. Thereby, even on the level of genre, the tension between “modem” and “traditional” expressive forms surfaces clearly. The writer’s motivation whether deliberately or not, was to evoke a sense of history-one of the most important aspects of the text. The genre code, therefore, opens up a dimension that further extends the semantic field of the title by tacitly suggesting the idea of novelty. It affirms the impression that the author will tell readers something they do not know or something that is part of the author’s and his addressee’s shared cultural knowledge, but that, for one reason or other, the reader is not yet aware of. Subliminally, the narrative,s “enlightenment” ideology is once again manifested.
The explicit genre definition is followed by a dedication and an epigraphanother set of “obstacles” in the process of the text’s interpretation. Suffice it to say that the dedication–“For SASHKO and VIKTOR, VIKTOR and SASHKO, without whom this contrivance could have never come to life ( 1 5)”-operates on two levels. It refers to real people and, moreover, is intended to acknowledge two prominent modern Ukrainian writers, namely Viktor Neborak and Oleksandr Irvanets’.40 On the other hand, the dedication laconically reiterates, in an informal and quite ironical manner, the entire semantic complex connected with the idea of literary game and recreation. In other words, it realizes a symbolic intermediary to correlate the novella’s fictitious world with real life. As such, its function is to compress the title’s and the genre’s semantic implications, providing readers with another clue concerning how to approach the text. Emphatically, the dedication places the act of literary recreation, and Andrukhovych’s narrative in particular, within the context of a non-serious, tricky and jocular discourse. The semantic pointers are the appearance of the stylistically distinguished word “shtuka” (contrivance) and the play with the Ukrainian writers’ personal names.41
As to the epigraph, it seems that it actually signals the beginning of the story. In the first instance, it presents the first spatial deictic marker and provides the name of the place where the novella’s events will transpire. As mentioned, the author chooses to call it Devilopolis (Chortopil).
The locality’s description in the epigraph suggests that Devilopolis is a fictitious landscape strongly associated with an important mytho-folkloric topos, namely the hypothetical area where the devil lives. The construction of the town’s name seems to adhere to the code of geographic semiosis that governs denotation in traditional etymology. In this sense, the name implies semantic realizations which are ideologically embedded in the system of Ukrainian folk beliefs.42 As a result, the novella’s imaginary space becomes a sign with great symbolic potential. The narrative’s spatial deixis ambivalently positions the fictitious world within an ancient cognitive template in Ukrainian culture, while at the same time continuing to present itself as an idiosyncratic literary innovation, which asks for a modern type of text-reading and interpretation.43 At the same time, the epigraph establishes the first point of departure, from where the imaginary journey through Ukrainian culture’s various historical layers begins. It is noteworthy therefore that Andrukhovych’s text revives a cultural unit that belongs to the domain of traditional Ukrainian religious beliefs. The seriousness of this “ideological” implication, however, is ironically debunked because the reference paradoxically anchors the hypothetical place (“Chortopil’ is surrounded on all sides by mountains”) to the discourse of a false scientific document (“Geographical handbook, early twentieth century ”). The author’s remark introduces the first temporal deictic marker. The time frames are set at the beginning of the twentieth century, while the text makes it explicit that it refers to events happening in the present (i.e., the 1990s). In this manner, the context of discourse and the context of reference are identified. They do not coincide, and so, the play with time is affirmed as part of the writer’s game strategy.
In short, from the very beginning of his narrative, Andrukhovych ensures that readers possess a set of symbolical clues that insistently orient them to perceive the novella as a highly sophisticated, heteroglossic and metaphoric discourse. They are forced to admit that the text overtly displays its realistic impossibility and constantly diverts the focus of attention toward itself, suggesting that the narrative will be an “elite” artistic product of individual (re)creation.
The fictitious event of a carnival celebration serves as the kernel of Andrukhovych’s story, semantically affirming and reviving the third option for the interpretation of the title. The readers are now able to identify with the atmosphere of a mass festival and to recognize that, in fact, the text is a story about the resurrection of the spirit. Significantly, this is exactly what happens to all of its characters. However, inasmuch as the addressees are invited to identify44 with the author’s imaginary persona and events, it is the suggested “recreation” of the reader that I find especially intriguing. The latent motivation of such a repetitive “request” is to encourage readers to experience the fantastic realm being offered to them. It is an invitation to animate the textual world in the imagination, to experience the pleasure of reading, to “internalize” the experience as part of their individual knowledge. Seen in such a light, Andrukhovych’s novella shows an ambition to symbolically represent the wholeness of Ukrainian society and culture in a period of transition. History and folklore become, therefore, the most significant instruments for the creation of continuity and cultural coherence. The text incorporates both the oral tradition and the history of the Ukrainian people by making them a subject-matter of its discourse.
At this point I will turn to an analysis of the two scenes that make explicit the revival of oral lore, or, to express it in terms of Andrukhovych’s metaphor, its “recreation.” Semiotically speaking, the folklore tradition is “accommodated” within the novella’s discourse as a “literary” imitation of an ancient mythoreligious ritual code, namely the code-system of initiation in the rites of passage. In two scenes the author describes Shtundera’s and Nemyrych’s “initiation experiences,” i.e., he shows how, as a result of their particular experiences, the characters acquire knowledge about the past and discover their “mature selves.” The poets’ age is the first semantic pointer introducing the “initiation” code. Both men-who are occasionally conceptualized as a pair45-are quite young and, more importantly, they are the youngest among the main group of characters. The text suggests that both figures belong to the “new” generation of Ukrainian intellectuals who are barely past their teen years. Their behavior, language and manners allude to the culture of the late 1980s. In other words, these are characters who are likely to represent the most recent “present” of Ukrainian culture’s history (27-30). By subjecting the characters to a dramatic exposure to the past, Andrkhovych explicitly indicates that the representatives of this “present” need to mature as they successfully “appropriate” the past as part of their “self.” The imaginary initiation experienced by Nemyrych and Shtundera will deepen their “national-cultural” identity. The author indirectly engages in “national citizen’s formation.”46 Another clue that supports the idea of “initiation” is the fact that Shtundera and Nemyrych arrive at the festival in the car of the devil himself or, at least, one of his high priests.47
Andrukhovych revives the ancient ritual code-system by conceptualizing the rite of passage of both young poets as an encounter with the past (Shtundera) and death (Nemyrych). However, the emphatically jocular and mocking literary context does not allow for the code to be perceived as authentic. It appears to be a form of (post)-modernist simulacrum. Therefore, its semiotic function is not to guide the interpretation but to impose a symbolical dimension that emphasizes the overtly fantastic nature of the narrated events. The characters’ entry into the realm of the supernatural and paranormal is ambivalently affirmed as part of the imaginary game and as a form of psychological motivation for their transformation. Significantly, in both cases Andrukhovych “deconstructs” the “folk” tradition and selectively restructures its elements in order to create a highly symbolic ideological plane, while at the same time continuing to entertain his audience by offering entry into the “outer-world,” the fantastic realm of literary fiction. In this respect, it is interesting to note that in both cases the “initiation” is embedded in the conceptual paradigm of the cult of ancestors. Both Shtundera and Nemyrych make a trip back in time in order to experience the life of their predecessors.
The selection of folkloric ingredients is done on several levels and affects the “ritual” dress-code. Essentially, the obligatory change of appearance (the novice’s ritual changing of clothes, for instance) is performed by both Nemyrych and Shtundera. But it functions differently for each of the characters. In the case of Shtundera, the metamorphosis seems to be complete, since the discourse changes its mode, shifting from third person to first person narration.48
The transformation in physical appearance is also accompanied by a change in Shtundera’s behaviour, who revives and enacts his father’s memories. Generally speaking, the “initiation” in the case of Shtundera presents a more or less traditional correlation between the content and expressive planes of the “ritual” code. Firstly, by means of bodily “mutilation” (i.e., Shtundera acquires a new haircut), he is “transformed” into a seventeenth-century Cossack. In addition, his metamorphosis of the self is confirmed through an exchange of clothing. It is exactly at this point, however, that the “conventionality” breaks down and the ritual code-system ceases to function as the primarily semiotic agent. Chronologically the transformation in dress does not correspond to the change in the haircut and Shtundera’s “self’ remains incomplete, paradoxically anchored between seventeenth- and twentieth-century Ukrainian culture.49 Thus, the writer explicitly indicates the composed, artificial nature of his (re)creation, which on the level of expression preserves the intention to amuse but on the level of content and symbolism becomes unexpectedly serious.
From the perspective of the narrative’s ideology, the discrepancy between the historical layers-symbolized respectively by Hryts”s haircut and clothes-is very important. The fact that Andrukhovych’s protagonist needs to wear masks in order to face and revive the past is psychologically symbolic. In this sense, Shtundera’s true initiation is not the one suggested by the ritual code of “transformation,” which proves to be merely a mask, but the actual re-enactment of the memories his father passed on to him and which are now encoded in the story. Through this ritual of “dramatization” the poet incorporates the painful memories and recognizes them as part of his individual historical consciousness. The seriousness of the character’s revival of the past is indicated by a change in the discourse. The switch to first person narration is a clear sign that the character becomes an alter ego for the author, who (re)creates himself as another narrative dramatis persona. In the context of Andrukhovych’s recreational literary game, the change in the discourse’s mode means also that the reader is invited to experience the same “rite of passage” as the character. Essentially, this becomes a journey for discovering the truth, i.e., the real and sacred esoteric50 knowledge that Shtundera’s father has bequeathed to him. At this point, the writer’s ideology is revealed. The method of magic realism clearly signals the importance of Shtundera’s discovery of the past and, more specifically, the revival and incorporation of this past as part of the fictitious persona’s self. Through the act of narration Andrukhovych suggests that painful history needs to be re-enacted and formalized within the collective historical consciousness and official practices of the Ukrainian people. Significantly, the memories that Shtundera and, by extension, readers “incorporate” and acknowledge are recollections about life in Soviet labour camps. The narrative insistently creates a sense of authenticity by breaking into two parallel discourses: the fictitious first person narration of Hryts’ and the skaz of his father. Thus, readers are confronted with the “truth” as told by a first-hand witness, one who suffered and was killed by the Soviet secret service. The technique is similar to one exploited often in Shevchenko’s poetry.51 Andrukhovych, however, uses this narrative technique not to emphasize the discontinuity between himself and his protagonist, but between Hryts’ and his father.52 In other words, the text’s symbolism suggests the discontinuity between its addressees and the generation of Shtundera’s father, i.e., the bearers of the “lost” historical memory that readers have to discover and recreate for themselves. The importance of Shtundera’s “rite of passage,” therefore, is pre-conditioned by the re-enactment of the painful past, enclosed in the abstract and exclusively symbolic revival of initiation ritual codes. In this sense, Andrukhovych affirms this particular section of the novella as a kind of “modem myth” about recent Ukrainian history (the skaz of Shtundera’s father). Within the novella’s context, the described ritual makes sense and hence has the suggestive powers of the traditional initiation, which leads to the discovery of the “true” self and the attainment of the novice’s maturity. It is important to note that the ritual code remains ambivalently defined as it is forced to function within a satirical and burlesque literary discourse. On the other, it is endowed with “ideological” power and thus becomes the most significant symbolical agency for “mastering” the expression of the writer’s personal “political” views.
The experiences of Nemyrych are completely different. Firstly, they are even more fantastic then those of Shtundera, which, more or less, are psychologically explicable. In this section the novella’s world manifests itself as highly improbable. The effect is achieved by means of several distinct codes, which regulate different cultural semiotic systems and force them to function simultaneously. Preserving the symbolism of the mytho-religious “initiation” code and the cult of ancestors, the author emphasizes the chronological incompatibilities through the deliberate concurrence of typical “folk” ritual activities with essentially aristocratic religious practices, and recreates them in a mocking and “carnivalesque” stance. Thus, the governing “extra-coding”53 is suggested in terms of ironically displaced “high” and “low,” serious and funny cultural variables. The literary semiosis is defined by the rules of superficial fusion, blending and extreme “estrangement” that principally characterize literary buffoonery. In short, readers are provided with clues to recognize the scene as a parody.
On the level of discourse, this section of Andrukhovych’s novella is quite “heterogeneous” in terms of narrative perspectives: it switches from the “neutral” third person to a dialogue in which lurko and Amaltheia’s viewpoints alternate with the “narrator’s” perspective, and finally changes to a generalized second person narration. Stylistically, the variety is manifested through the presence of different speech-genres and expressive styles. On the level of the novella’s genrecode the parody introduces the Gothic literary tradition. Thus, the text becomes an experiment that recreates a little known Western European literary form for the Ukrainian readership.
In terms of the novella’s ideology, Andrukhovych consciously stresses the carnivalesque falsity of the scene’s fictitious world and as a result indirectly “evaluates” the represented past as “dead” for the purposes of current “identity” formation. It is obvious that the encounter with the devil and death are extreme psychological experiences for Nemyrych, but in contrast to Shtundera, he does not intentionally seek to experience them. Secondly, Nemyrych realizes their importance and meaning merely by accident. Thirdly, the entire event is ambiguously “incorporated” as part of the character’s life since he, at the end of the scene, manages to escape. Essentially, what the fictitious personage avoids is the rite of bodily mutilation and this is why, speaking in terms of the ancient mytho-religious ritual code-system, he was not able to achieve a communion with his ancestors. In this sense, the episode suggests that Andmukhovych’s character refuses to recognize his experiences during the night of the resurrecting spirit as part of his past, and thus, as part of his self. Nevertheless, the knowledge acquired through the encounter with the devil and the dead is important because it triggers the character’s “transformation” and subliminally becomes instrumental for the achievement of personal maturity, which he previously lacked. An expression of this transformation is Nemyrych’s behaviour in the novella’s final episode (122-123).54 It seems that the core of the character’s change is his release from the fear of death, which allows him to assume a mocking stance when his life appears to be truly endangered. Even more importantly, Nemyrych is liberated from the fear of Soviet authority figures. The episode in the castle, as far as the fictitious persona’s transformation is concerned, can be interpreted as an encounter with one’s own fears of an “inappropriate” or “inoperative” past (noble origin, for example), which may surface from the subconscious and cause psychological trauma. The symbolism of Nemyrych’s transformation, then, is connected particularly with the psychological recovery from inferiority complexes, which during the Soviet rule were created artificially through ideological intolerance and class discrimination. In support of this argument, let me recall the scene when Popel’ reveals that the servant who treats Andrukhovych’s characters after their entry into the castle is “pershyi sekretar raikomu” [the first secretary of the local Communist Party Committee] (95). Evidently, the social code governing the relationships and one’s status in Soviet society is totally reversed. This, in my opinion, clearly discloses the author’s political innuendo, despite the sophisticated symbolical form of its manifestation.
With respect to the revival of the oral tradition in Andrukhovych’s discourse, the episode in the castle has a very specific function. It serves to develop and make more obvious for the reader the semantic suggestion encoded within the novella’s initial semantic field as outlined by the title and the epigraph. The entire Festival of the Resurrecting Spirit is now associated with the folkloric descriptions of the hypothetical witches’ Sabbath at Bald mountain near Kyiv (Lysa hora). The first clue to suggest such inter-textual reference is Dr. Popel”s transformation as the devil’s priest. He is described as wearing a bishop’s mitre turned back to front, evoking descriptions in Ukrainian black magic rituals and demonological legends, where similar gestures of disrespect are used to indicate one’s alliance with the evil powers (104).55 Complementary also is Amalthea’s transformation, which suggests she was a witch.56 She helps Nemyrych “fly” to the site of his execution (sacrifice).57 The notion of flight is suggested once again in the final episode, when the character suceeds in escaping from the castle. The description betrays similarities to Ukrainian folk narratives depicting the experiences of ordinary men taken to the witches’ Sabbath on Bald Mountain.58 The last, but not least, indication of the relationship of Andrukhovych’s narrative with traditional Ukrainian oral texts is the use of black magic incantation. Because of the contextual environment, it reads as a parody of typical incantatory expressions (104).59
Therefore, the novella asserts the semantic link between its narrative discourse and traditional legendary texts. Andrukhovych’s inter-textual reference affirms what I previously called the “national” code, which generally speaking governs the “ideological” dimension of Andrukhovych’s fiction. Thus, the text insists upon its “Ukrainianness” despite the author’s vanguard (post)modernist literary experimentation. Precisely because of this constant “national” selfawareness, the novella also displays strong ambitions to mediate between various historical layers of Ukrainian culture. In a coherent aesthetic discourse, Andrukhovych succeeds in encompassing and recreating significant periods of the recent as well as more distant Ukrainian past that were either suppressed or ignored by the collective historical memory. The result of such blending is the recovery of the historical and cultural continuity fundamental for the formation of modem Ukrainian national identity. The most important effect of Andrukhovych’s “recreation” therefore tends to be the enforcement of a different sense of self, history and cultural identity. Magic realism becomes the method of articulating this. Its dominant code is carefully constructed and established by the author, who draws extensively from a variety of sources in order to produce the texture of his harmonious and highly symbolical narrative. The incorporation of Ukrainian oral lore is an essential element in this complex structure. The folkloric (popular) imagery is endowed with historical depth and affirmed through the text’s general “ideology” as the primary engendering context by symbolically representing the collective national identity. Therefore, the act of the novella’s reading seems to be subliminally conceptualized by the writer as a form of the readers’ “rite of passage,” primarily intended to extend their literary competence by means of propagating a new type of relationship between life and art. By extension, it proposes a different role for the artist in modem Ukrainian society. However, the purely “literary” politics of Andrukhovych, as manifested in his Post-Postup interview, are de facto defeated by means of his literary recreations.60 It is true that his novella manifests a skillful and exclusively modem or, even more precisely, post-modem type of individual literary experimentation. In addition, it also realizes a verbal symbolical structure which, deliberately or not, articulates contemporary concerns and proposes solutions to the crucial problem of the Ukrainian nation’s formation in post-colonial conditions.
In this light, Andrukhovych’s text is representative of attempts made by Ukrainian intellectuals and state-officials who promote Ukrainian “nationalcultural identity” and, as a result, create a contemporary version of Ukrainian national culture. In agreement with M. Marriott and Roger Foster, I think that “the self-conscious creation and dissemination of representations of the nation entails contests among competing interests and not merely a ‘choice’-rational or otherwise-made by cultural policymakers.”61 From such a perspective, I read Andrukhovych’s novella as a sophisticated and highly suggestive argument in favor of a modem Ukrainian national-cultural identity that recognizes and respects the past without distortions and ideological misrepresentations. On the foundations of this past, successive generations are seen making their own contributions and recreating the Ukrainian spirit and culture. Hence, the revival of the oral tradition as well as the revitalization of forgotten or suppressed historical memories need to be “cynically” examined and incorporated as part of the individual cultural heritage in order to ensure the continuation and preservation of Ukrainian national culture within the contemporary “global ecumene.”62 I propose that this is the latent “ideological” content of Andrukhovych’s fiction. The core of his message, as it is revealed in the symbolical texture of his Rekreats, remains the idea that literature and, by extension, other art forms are vital for the formation of the “national citizen” because they transform people through aesthetic recreation and emotional participation. In other words, Andrukhovych seems to believe that art succeeds where explicit political propaganda fails. As the Ukrainian writer tried to show in the context of his fiction, all art forms are meant to suggest rather than express. Through suggestion they transform and liberate their audiences from fear, negative emotions, psychological frustration and trauma. It is thus because art’s primary function is to give pleasure whether through the catharsis of its creation or the “recreational” relief of its consumption.
“1989-i uvde v literaturu pid znakom nad,” Literaturna Ukraina, 26 April 1990.
2 Marko Pavlyshyn, “Shcho peretvoriuiet’sia v ‘Rekreatsakh’ luria Andrukhovycha?” Suchasnist’ 12 (1993): 115.
3 Regarding the novella’s complexity, the following should be noted. Despite the simple plot, the text is a difficult reading because of the sophisticated formal structure, which accommodates a variety of narrative strategies and effects. The writer employs first, second and third person narration, both in the singular and plural. Moreover, the homogeneity of narrative modes often breaks as these alternate with inner or direct dialogue, stream of consciousness, “market speeches,” implied or direct quotations, poetry recitation or the reading of documents. The language of the text contains obscenities, archaisms, parodies of political speeches, Russian borrowings, curses, etc. The constant shifts of narrative perspective do not allow for the identification of a stable narrative centre and the narrative persona are profuse.
The flow of time is also nonlinear and there are many flashbacks. In other words, the novella presents a highly heterogolossic and diverse universe, describing a fragmented and carnivally reversed reality during times of transition and crisis. In this respect, M. Riabchuk’s interview with Andrukhovych offers an interesting insight into the prototypical model of the novella’s fictitious world. Here the writer acknowledges he is indebted to M. Bakhtin’s concept of “carnival culture” as developed in the Russian scholar’s book on Rabelais (“Zamist’ pisliamovy do ‘Rekreats’. Interv’iu z luriem Andrukhovychem,” Suchasnist’2 : 117). The novella was written in the fall of 1990. Andrukhovych made several unsuccessful attempts to publish the manuscript, before he offered it to the editors of the journal Suchasnist’. The text appeared in 1992 on the pages of the January issue (Riabchuk 117-8).
Marko Pavlyshyn, Suchasnist’ 12 (1993): 115. Suchasnist’ 5 (1992): 109-116.
7 A letter from Lev and Maria Chaikivs’ki, and Oles’ Semeniuk from the USA, Suchasnist’ 12 ( 1993): 110.
Another letter from the United States sent by M. Kots’, Suchasnist’ 12 (1993): III.
Letter of V. Semereka, Great Britain, Suchasnist’ 12 (1993): 112. 10 See the letter of Khrystyna Khomyts’ka from L’viv, Suchasnist’ 12 (1993): 11. II A letter from Svitlana Kovalevs’ka, Kyiv, Suchasnist’ 12 (1993): 112.
12 Suchasnist’ 5 (1992): 113-114.
13 See the above mentioned article in Suchasnist’ 12 (1993): 115-126, and also Journal of Ukrainian Studies 20, nos. 1-2 (1995): 79-86. 14 This choice is partially justified by the complexity of the text as well as my conviction that Andrukhovych’s novella is representative of this type of contemporary literary experimentation. In support of this understanding I point to the account of Roksana Kharchuk, who in her article on Andrukhovych’s writing comments that his persona became “a symbol of the new, liberated Ukrainian literature” (Journal of Ukrainian Studies 20.1-2 : 87). 15 Indeed, the realization that folklore continues to provide a powerful expressive medium subliminally compels Ukrainian authors to explore the “cultural memory” encoded in traditional oral poetry and prose. However, it is also clear that contemporary Ukrainian writers and poets are eager to avoid absolute identification with the long lasting emblems of Ukrainian national identity. In their search for a new self-image, the artists are evidently tired of serving ambitious “identityformation” projects, but they remain paradoxically tom between the modern and the traditional, between the “global” and the “local,” precisely because there is nothing sacred for their consciousness. Hence, the texts of “authentic” folk culture are altered and modernized as they become objects of diverse idiosyncratic reinventions.
16 In English there is no equivalent of the Ukrainian word. It denotes a specific cultural item. According to C. N. Andrusyshen’s Ukrainian-English Dictionary the term means a “sheaf of straw brought into the house on Christmas Eve,” which symbolizes “the souls of the departed ancestors” (Saskatoon: University of Saskatchewan, 1981 ) 185.
17 Peter Sloterdijk, Critique of Cynical Reason, Theory and History of Literature, vol. 40 (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1987) 5. 18 Sloterdijk 3.
Historically speaking, the cynical attitude toward the national oral tradition was first manifested by Ukrainian modernists. But the emotional attachments of authors like M. Kotsiubyns’kyi, V. Stefanyk, O. Kobylians’ka, N. Kobryns’ka and others to the traditional cultural heritage differs significantly from the position of contemporary writers. It seems to me that Ukrainian modernists preserved a romantic admiration of oral lore texts, and maintained the same philosophy of love and affection that inspired the nineteenth-century Ukrainian intelligentsia to collect and publish folklore materials. Of course, I am aware that Ukrainian Modernism is too complex a phenomenon to be reductively defined in this general manner. It comprises various aesthetic manifestations and illustrations of diverse beliefs and ideologies. My statement is merely a preliminary hypothesis for a future study of the relationship between Ukrainian Modernism and the national folklore tradition. In Ukrainian literary and cultural studies the question has been rarely addressed and my intention is to develop a project that will specifically focus on the investigation of this intriguing form of cultural interaction.
Yurii Lotman’s theory of culture was gradually developed and presented in a number of works. I here refer above all to his book Universe of the Mind: A Semiotic Theory of Culture, (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1990) and the articles “O semioticheskom mechanisme kul’tury,” Ti-udy po znakovym sistemam 5 (1971): 144-166, Engl. trans. “On the Semiotic Mechanism of Culture,” New Literary History 9.1 (Winter 1978): 211-32, and “O problemakh tipologii kul’tury,” Trudy 3 (1976): 30-38.
21 The notion of “code” is used in a variety of scholarly fields. The advantage of Eco’s definition is that it makes a clear distinction between the semiotic and all other applications of the term. In Eco’s view, the tenn is most properly used in reference to a correlative function, which establishes the rule for connecting given elements of a content system with given elements of an expressive system (Umberto Eco, A Theory of Semiotics [Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1979] 37-38). Regarding this specific semiotic application of the notion of code, Eco stresses the difference between an s-code and a-code, proclaiming that the former are systems or structures that are “made up of finite sets of elements oppositionally structured and governed by combinational rules that can generate both finite and infinite strings or chains of these elements,” but these systems can exist independently, and not in a reference to a process of signification or communication (ibid.). Codes, on the other hand, are conceptualized by the Italian semiotician as a “coupling rule” which “apportions the elements of a conveying system to the elements of a conveyed system,” where the former “becomes the expression of the latter and the latter becomes the content of the former. A sign-function arises when an expression is correlated to a content, both the correlated elements being functives of such a correlation” (48). In other words, codes are the rules which allow us to attach meaning to certain entities, and in this way transform them into signs. As Eco acknowledges, codes do not serve to organize signs, but provide “the rules which generate signs as concrete occurrences in communicative intercourse” (49). He also points out that codes are social conventions, used by the members of a particular community for the purposes of communication and understanding. Therefore, the theorist suggests that “a theory of codes should study the conditions under which the message may be communicated and comprehended” (65). In his view, the meaning of a tenn is a “cultural unit” and he, relying on David Schneider’s definition, describes the notion thus: “a unit… is simply anything that is culturally defined and distinguished as an entity. It may be a person, place, thing, feeling, state of affairs, sense of foreboding, fantasy, hallucination, hope or idea….” And also, it is “the meaning to which the code makes the system of sign-vehicles correspond” (67). Thus, codes are the cultural conventions which determine the meanings of a sign and the relevant contexts of its use so that the sign maintains its meaningfulness and ability to be understood, at least by the representatives of a particular cultural environment. 22 See in particular the collection entitled New Essays in Deixis: Discourse, Narratives, Literature, Keith Green, ed. (Costeruis New Series 103; Atlanta: Rodopi, 1995).
23 I espouse the Piercean understanding which recognizes the sign to be a semantic and functional whole of three mutually dependent and interconnected semiotic entities, namely a representamen, an object and an interpretant. In paraphrase, his definition reads as “something that stands for something else in some respect and capacity” (Merrell 34).
24 Jonathan Culler, “In Defense of Overinterpretation,” in Stefan Collini, ed., Interpretation and Overinterpretation: Umberto Eco with Richard Rorty, Jonathan Culler, Christine Brooke-Rose (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1992) 117. 25 Culler 118.
26 Thus, I disagree with Andrukhovych’s ideas about the purpose and the functions of artists and art in contemporary Ukrainian society as he presents them in his PostPostup interview. In this text, Andrukhovych enunciates his preferences for apolitical art, and defends the priority of the purely aesthetic and entertaining function of artistic works. The writer declares that the more playful a poem is, the more esteemed it is in his view. In the same interview he claims that the “new poetry,” i.e., the literature of the 1980s-1990s, “has stopped bearing the functions [i.e., the expression of primarily the social and political needs of Ukrainians] that burdened it for decades, even for centuries instead of all those structures which were supposed to exist” (Post-Postup, 2-8 March, 1993).
Robert J. Foster, “Making National Cultures in the Golbal Ecumene,” Annual Review of Anthropology 20 (1991): 235.
28 See his book Culture and Personality, 2nd ed. (New York: Random House, 1970 ) 189.
29 A working definition of culture, given by Yurii Lotman refers to it as the “non hereditary memory of a community” (“On the Semiotic Mechnism of Culture” 213). In his view, the notion is inevitably related to the collective experiences of the past, and as he acknowledges the problem of continuity and change is crucial in the consideration of culture’s existence. Lotman points out that every culture creates its own mechanisms of accumulation and preservation of the collective memory, and the longevity of the culture’s texts establishes a hierarchy in which the most “ancient” texts are the most esteemed (214). According to Lotman, in the course of its development a culture periodically reaches a point where it creates its own model (this point is “a moment when it becomes conscious of itself” 227-28), hence simultaneously transforming and preserving itself. Speaking of Ukrainian culture, I see the 1990s as one of these crucial points where culture re-examines its previous models and codes in order to create a “new” cultural face, thus giving itself a new mode of existence. Consequently, with respect to Ukrainian folklore tradition, it seems to me that the oral lore heritage is one of the constantly re-invented and re-examined code systems, perhaps because since the period of Romanticism folklore has been established as a kernel of the national culture. Historically speaking, every shift of the cultural models within Ukrainian society thereafter appears to be accompanied with a reformulation of the attitudes toward this inheritance. Often the processes are more subversive than supportive, but the tension between the “folk” tradition and the “modern” aesthetic visions are usually subject to constant re-negotiation.
30 For readers who are not familiar with Andrukhovych’s text, I offer the following summary:
The writer tells a story about the experiences of a group of Ukrainian authors, who are very close friends. They arrive at a fictitious place in Western Ukraine to participate in the so-called Festival of the Resurrecting Spirit. The novella begins with a detailed description of their arrival, introducing all of the main characters as they gather together at the non-existent city of Chortopil’ (Devilopolis). The first to be presented is Orest Khoms’kyi (Khoma). He is a middle-aged “traveller, rock-star” and an extravagant and handsome poet and musician (Yuri Andrukhovych, Recreations, Eng. trans. by Marko Pavlyshyn [Edmonton: Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies, 1998] 20. All further citations are from this edition. Orest’s thoughts en route while he travels by train to Chortopil’ are depicted in a long, sustained discourse. The second writer to be introduced is “the hope of Ukrainian poetry” Rostyslav Martofliak, a man of thirty, “unemployed, father of two children,… drunkard,… candidate for parliament….” (21). He is a symbolical representation of the poet-Messiah, a most honoured figure in the Ukrainian literary tradition. Being very talented and popular, Martofliak asserts himself as a leading persona among the group of main characters. He comes to the festival accompanied by his wife, Marta. In fact, the first time readers meet Martofliak, it is Marta’s voice that introduces him. While riding with her husband on the bus to Chortopil’, she draws his portrait in her mind. Next, the writer launches his description of the last two members of this small circle of friends, the young poets Hryts’ Shtundera and lurko Nemyrych. They arrive at the festival in the car of Dr. Popel’, an emigre Ukrainian, citizen of Switzerland, a psychiatrist and a sponsor of the imaginary festival.
The novella also contains several secondary characters. The most important among them is another Marta, a prostitute, with whom Martofliak finds himself in bed during the first night of the celebration. The second is Pavlo Avramovych Matsapura, the festival’s main organizer. Surprisingly however, until the final scene of the novella, where at last the writer directly presents this imaginary persona, Matsapura exists merely as a “referent” in the discourses of the four poets and friends. The main body in Andrukhovych’s text is devoted to a description of the principal characters’ transformation, which happens within 24 hours of their arrival in Chortopil’. At first, the friends gather at the local restaurant and with excessive drinking and eating celebrate their communion. Next, they separate and each of them is subjected to a different adventure, the ultimate result of which is the character’s self-rediscovery. Thus, Martofliak meets with a group of young people. In front of them he rehearses his “electoral” speeches and political program, but at the end of the night he finds himself very drunk and terribly alone. Solitude is the condition that unites all of Andrukhovych’s main protagonists. During that night they all realize how lonesome they feel. In an attempt to escape from this state, the four poets and Marta, the wife of Martofliak, do things which deeply affect their personality and lead to the “resurrection” of their spirit. In Hryts’ Shundera’s case, enlightenment is sought through the enactment of his father’s story about the Soviet penal-labour camp situated in the surroundings of Chortopil’. He embarks on this trip, endeavoring to find the place in order to pay respect to the past and the victims of the Soviet regime. lurko Nemyrych, in his turn, has a very unusual encounter with the devil and the dead. Invited by Dr. Popel’, he joins a private party taking place in a famous, old
castle located in the city. Here he meets with numerous representatives of the former Ukrainian nobility, and barely escapes death when the devil’s high priest (Dr. Popel’) tries to sacrifice the young Ukrainian poet to the evil powers. Marta Martofliak and Orest Khomskyi spend the night together and make love in Marta’s hotel room, awaiting others to return from their adventurous trips. 3* “Cultural unit” appears here in the same sense as it is used by Umberto Eco (67). In the majority of cases I will apply his semiotic terminology in a strict sense, i.e., as the terms are defined in his general semiotic theory. 32 Besides the notion of code, in my interpretation I also follow to some extent Umberto Eco’s revised model of semantic analysis. According to this model, a single sign-vehicle can have diverse interpretants, and therefore represents simultaneously a complex set of “objects” (57, 122 ff.) In the theorist’s view, the tracing of a term’s meaning is more like the reading of an encyclopedia than the browsing of a dictionary (99-100). The interpreters are exposed to a “fuzzy” continuum of semantic options, and they have the right to choose which semantic axis to follow. In fact, they can choose more than one semantic axis. However, their choice is not arbitrary but determined by contextual or circumstantial factors (ibid.). In this sense, words (or any other type of signs) contain information which outlines a synchronic-diachronic spectrum, or a network of denotations and connotations realizing the entirety of the sign’s possible readings. “Quillians model… is based on a mass of nodes interconnected by various types of associative links. For the meaning of every lexeme there has to exist, in the memory, a node which has its `patriarch,’ the tenn to be defined, here called a type. The definition of a type A foresees the employment of a series of other sign-vehicles which are included as tokens (and which in the model are other lexemes). The configuration of the meaning of the lexeme is given by the multiplicity of its links with various tokens, each of which, however, becomes in turn a type B, that is, the patriarch of a new configuration which includes as tokens many other lexemes, some of which are also tokens of the type A, and which can include as token the same type A…. As can be seen, this model anticipates the definition of every sign, thanks to the interconnection with the universe of all other signs that function as interpretants, each of these ready to become the sign
interpreted by all the others; the model, in all its complexity, is based on a process of unlimited semiosis. From a sign which is taken as a type, it is possible to penetrate, from the center to the farthest periphery, the whole universe of cultural units, each of which can in turn become the center and create infinite peripheries” (Eco’s italics, 122). If considered from this perspective, as Eco advises, the idea of code needs to be revised. Thus, he suggests that “code must therefore be understood as a sum of notions… which can be viewed as the competence of the speaker” (125). The semiotician then rightly points out that “the code is not a natural condition of the Global Semantic Universe nor a stable structure underlying the complex of links and branches of every semiotic process,” and nicely illustrates his thought with the metaphor of a box of magnetized marbles (126). At this point he defines the focus of interest for a semiotics of code-change to be “the process by which a rule is imposed upon the indeterminacy of the source” (ibid.) In principle, Eco conceptualizes the semiotics of code-change as part of the theory of sign-production, and admits that the changing of codes is a “complex process which involves both semiotic and factual judgments and other forms of textual manipulation; in this sense it directly involves the aesthetic manipulation of codes” (155; see also 158-162 and 273-275).
33 I refer here to the celebrations at the Kyiv Mohyla Academy that normally took place at the end of May. The novella articulates this cultural reference on at least three different levels. Firstly, the association is suggested through the title which revives the name of the May celebrations by “borrowing” one of its parts (Travnevi rekreats). [I thank Dr. N. Pylypiuk for this information]. Secondly, the time frames of the novella coincide with the period of these celebrations, i.e., Andrukhovych’s fiction transpires at the end of May. Thirdly, as it is explicitly stated in the novella’s discourse, it describes a festival, and thus confirms itself as a literary representation of a “real” festival. Symbolically, the festival described in the narrative is called “the festival of the Resurrecting Spirit.”
34 The Slovnyk inshomovnykh sliv translates the Latin word recreatio as vidnovlennia [restoration, renewal] edited by O. S. Mel’nychuk (Kyiv: Ukrains’ka Radians’ka Entsyklopedia, 1974) 580.
35 Eco 133; ISS; 268.
36 In a hypothetical situation, which nevertheless is quite probable in reality, I see the novella’s title as a kind of challenge to the individual, who does not know the meaning of the word. The challenge becomes a matter of choice, and the options for the reader are either to look up the word in a dictionary and “learn,” or to give up and start reading without making sense of the title. In the most drastic case, the book will be evaluated as “difficult,” and the reader will simply seek a different means of entertainment. In any case, the title is the first semiotic “obstacle” that Andrukhovych’s reader has to overcome in order to enter the world of his novella. 37 The genre-form is a prosaic work of literature, which occupies an intermediary position between opovidannia [short story] and roman [novel]. (V.M. Lesyn and 0. S. Pulynets’, Slovnyk literaturoznavskykh terminiv, 3rd ed. (Kyiv: Radians’ka shkola, 1971) 321-22). My impression is that Andrukhovych’s text, besides other literary games, plays also with the conventional definition of the povist’-genre. Because of space limitations, however, I will not develop this idea farther.
38 Consider the explanation in Max Vasmer’s Russisches Etymologisches Worterbuch, Transl. in Russian, vol. I (Moscow: Progress, 1964) 304, 309. 39 Vasmer 234-35.
40 The three members of the Bu-ba-bu literary group, metaphorically speaking, reminded me of Alexandre Dumas’ musketeers. In fact, I think that the allusion is indirectly suggested through the narrative’s plot which tends to emphasize the bonding between the characters, who are also writers. In this respect what seems important is that, if such an allusion is indeed encoded in Andrukhovych’s text, it is probably presented as an association whose expressive abilities are to be explored and played with.
41 The names are repeated, and the linguistic expression is shaped as a “mirror-like” syntactic juxtaposition.
42 More specifically, Andrukhovych’s novella makes links with those oral narratives in which the devil, as the most famous representative of folk demonology, functions as a central personage. The text alludes to folk narratives that provide descriptions of the devil’s habitat. See “Muzyka i chorty” in Filiaret Kolessa’s Ukrains’ka usna slovesnist’ (Edmonton: Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies, 1983) 557.
43 Contextual reference to the novella’s plot will once again point out that Andrukhovych describes a carnivally reversed world, i.e., “svit navpaky.” Bearing this in mind, it is not difficult to infer from the encoded infonnation the function of the epigraph. In my opinion, it serves, at least to some degree, to prepare the reader to expect strange and weird events. On a more abstract level, the author persistently suggests that his textual world is absolutely improbable, i.e., fantastic.
44 In addition to the “clues” given to the reader, suggesting how to “play” the game and the kind of game this will be, the narrative begins as a second person narration. According to deixis theory, second person narration is very ambiguous with respect to the constitution of the “speaking” voice and the addressee. In principle, this is a technique by means of which the involvement of the reader is enforced. (See Monika Fludemik, “Pronouns of Address and the ‘Odd’ Third Person Forms: The Mechanics of Involvement in Fiction,” in New Essays in Deixis, 105-106.) In other words, Andrukhovych from the outset invites the reader to enter his world, addressing her as “you,” yet simultaneously introducing the thoughts of a character who addresses himself in a second person too, thus creating his first “narrative” mask. It should be noted that Andrukhovych consistently switches to second person narration at some of the most important moments of the plot’s development (e.g., the shift from third person to second person narration prior to Yurko Nemyrych’s escape from Dr. Popel’, i.e., the devil’s priest, thus “pushing” the reader to identify with the character’s experiences ).
45 Both characters are introduced for the first time in Khomsky’s discourse. In his consciousness the two men constitute a pair, that is, “Nemyrych and Hryts”‘ (17). In the discourse of Martofliak’s wife they are also mentioned as a pair (“The worst of it is that I know in advance exactly what it will be like in Chortopil’. That same crowd Hryts’ and Nemyrych, and that Casanova Khomsky…” ). Hryts’ Shtundera and Yurko Nemyrych are directly introduced to the reader en route to Devilopolis. They travel together and arrive at the festival in the car of Dr. Popel’ (27-34). The text continues to “address” them as a pair; one can find a good example of this on p. 41 where both characters “almost simultaneously” ask the same question. Again, both men “appear” as a “pair” in Hryts”s speech in the context of a single sentence: “I know Yurko Nemyrych, he’s a colossal poet and a wonderful friend, I know myself’ (61).
46 Foster 238.
See Dr. Popel”s transformation on p. 104. Also, note that immediately after asking Dr. Popel’ to help them travel aborad, Yurko Nemyrych gives to the Ukrainian emigre his own book, inscribed as a present. I read this gesture as a form of ritual “sacrifice,” a means to establish contact with the past, in this case represented by the “eternal” Dr. Popel’ (29-30). In the ritual of initiation, contact with the world of the dead through the novice’s symbolic sacrifice is an essential element. Traditionally, in ancient initiation rituals, the sacrifice involves an act of bodily mutilation (circumcision, hair cutting and such like) on the novice’s part. See Arnold van
Gennep, The Rites of Passage, Monika B. Vizedom and Gabrielle L. Caffee, trans. (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul,  1965) 29, 71-72. 48 As mentioned previously, the play with the narrative persona is a significant part of the novella’s formal structure.
49 Hryts’ Shtundera has his hair cut in an old-fashioned Cossack manner. He wears an oseledts, which makes him look as “the real Cossack type” (77). At the same time he changes into “the uniform of an officer of the Ukrainian Galician Army” (79). Thus, his appearance results in an interesting “hybridization” that combines a seventeenth-century haircut with twentieth-century military clothing. 50 Extremely important, in my view, is the fact that the memories of Hryts”s father are presented in his own speech. Therefore, the incorporation of the “oral type discourse” within the literary narrative tends to emphasize the significance of the medium of transmission, i.e., language.
51 I have in mind poems such as Rozryta mohyla, Za bairakom bairak, etc., where the lyrical voice communicates with a Cossack who is neither alive nor dead and who speaks about the past.
52 Elena Semino, examining the variations of poetic voices and utterances in lyric texts, points out that in many cases the discourse suggests a discontinuity between the author and the various figures who act as first person speakers. She emphasizes that such discontinuity is “even greater when poets choose as first person speakers entities that do not, in the actual world, possess the power of speech, such as dead people…, inanimate beings…, or imaginary creatures…” (Elena Semino, “Deixis and the Dynamics of Poetic Voice,” in New Essays in Deixis 147). It seems to me that Andrukhovych’s narrative offers in the instance of Shtundera’s dead father personal utterance an evident case of this technique. 53 Eco 129.
54 At the end, the writer gathers his fictitious persona once again in order to subject them to one last “encounter.” This event is a staged, false massive arrest. It is performed by actors dressed up as representatives of the Soviet secret services. This “happening” is a special “treat” that the organizer Matsapura playfully offers to his guests as a form of official welcome. The fictitious performance takes place in the early morning hours and serves to mark the actual beginning of the festival program. As the text’s final phrase suggests, the poets are expected to recite their works later in the evening of the same day.
55 The gesture appears both semantically and functionally similar to spitting in the face of the Virgin or spitting on a cross and crushing it underfoot. See Volodymyr Hnatiuk, “Znadoby do Ukrains’koi demonol’ohii,” Etnohrafichnyi zbirnyk, t. XXXIII (L’viv: NTSh, 1912): 2-3.
56 “…he felt in the palm of his hand not the delicate hand of a girl, but something more like a log-end, or, perhaps, the stump of an amputated limb…. On the other side stood Amalthea, only not as she had been, but old and stooped, in threadbare miserable rags and with gold fangs where her channing buckteeth had been” ( 103, 104). See descriptions of witches in P.V. Ivanov, “Narodnye rasskazy o ved’makh i upyriakh,” in A.P. Ponomariova, ed. Ukraintsi: Narodni viruvannia, povir’ia, demonol’oha, 2nd ed. (Kyiv: Lybid’, 1992) 432. 57 “The rooms rushed past with cinematic speed, ever new doors swung open, toward them flew ever new mirrors, candles, thickets of houseplants, portraits in gold
frames, wings, cloaks, hats, robes, stuffed birds. And when it seemed that this horrible flight would have no end and that the flood of Handel’s Passacaglia, rising ever higher, was its funeral accompaniment, the final door opened at last and Amalthea pulled him into a dark, bare, and cold room…” (104; italics mine-V. B-O). 58 “…through this air,… and you leaped down, Yurko, into the chasm that is called a May night, and youfell downward for a million years…” (104-105; italics mineV. B-O.) See Hnatiuk (t. XXXIV) 133; 142; 147; and also Kolessa 536. 59 See examples of Ukrainian folk incantations in Kolessa 566-568.
60 See footnote 25 above. 61 Foster 237.
62 Foster 235 and Ulf Hannerz, “Te Global Ecumene as a Network of Nercs” in Conceptualizing Society, Adam Kuper, ad. (London: Routledge, 1991) 43.
* I am indebted to Dr. Natalia Pylypiuk for advice and critical comments during the initial stage of the article’s writing. The text evolved out of a term-paper written in 1998 for her course on contemporary Ukrainian literature.
VESSELA BALINSKA-OURDEVA is a PhD candidate in the Department of Modern Languages and Cultural Studies, University of Alberta. She graduated from Sofia University “St. Kliment Okhridski,” in 1989. She is interested in the impact of literature on human thinking and the shaping of human personality: in the interaction between traditional modes of thought (folklore, mythology) and modern systems of thought as manifested in the discourses of (post)modern literature and art.
Автор: Canadian Slavonic Papers, Sep-Dec 1998 by Vessela Balinska-Ourdeva