Literature of Fact

Barooshian, Vahan D. 1971. Russian Futurism in the Late 1920's: Literature of Fact. The Slavic and East European Journal 15(1): 38-46.

The Futurists and Formalists considered the writer as a craftsman whose product was not unlike the products of other workers. They wanted the writer to work for journals, newspapers, and factories, to write sketches, diaries, reports and memoirs - in short, to write a literature of fact which they believed far more directly reflected the problems and events of the day than "imaginative" literature. They believed that the imaginative literature which RAPP advocated would not only take years to develop and write, but was an intrinsically solitary art form that alienated the writer from the task of building socialism and from what Boris Kušner (1888-1937) called "direct and immediate participation in political and cultural work." (Barooshian 1971: 38)
This I actually like, because a modern literature of fact would most likely take the form of a blog.
There were to be sure other reasons for advocating a literature of fact. According to Osip Brik (1888-1945), the Russian intelligentsia so highly develpoed "its ability to experience imaginary facts and events" because it was alienated for a long time from all forms of practical work. Brik suggested that the active Soviet intelligentsia was not and could not be seriously involved in the problems raised by imaginative literature because it already knew their solutions in "reality." Only problems raised in this reality, Brik remarked, could be of concern to the Soviet intelligentsia. Brik also observed that a "fixation and montage of facts" would create a more viable impression on the reader than so-called imaginative literature. (Barooshian 1971: 39)
For some reason I have an inkling that this may have something to do with Soviet realism.
The writer, according to Brik, was merely executing as it wer a historical-literary injunction in response to the demands of a specific literary situation:
Every work of art is the result of a complex interrelation of individual features of creative art. The author's role is to use these features and to combine them into a definite artistic product. The elements of which the art work is created are external to the author and independent of him. The author merely uses them for his work, with a greater or lesser degree of success.
In every period there is a certain number of artistic methods and devices available for creative use. Changing these methods and devices is not a matter of the individual author's volition, but is the result of the evolution of artistic creativity.
Armed with this determinism, Brik critically dissected the literary notions and slogans of RAPP as exemplified in a highly representative work of that group: Aleksandr Fadeev's (1901-56) The Rout (1927). (Barooshian 1971: 39)
This I remember from reading Brik in Estonian (and I really really wished that these "extra-literary elements" signified extra-linguistic elements, e.g. nonverbal behaviour).
However, as Brik went on to note, Čexov's influence was far more pervasive in Fadeev's work than Tolstoj's. This influence could be seen in the clash between two dominant Čexovian types in Fadeev's novel: weak-willed and strong-willed characters. Brik saw this clash as the basic theme of Čexov's stories. "The meaning of this theme," he wrote, "is that there are people who are adjusted to life and people who are maladjusted. Adjustment, however, is made at the price of lowering one's intellectual level. To be adjusted to life one must be more crude, more obtuse, more straightforward. Usually Čexov does not show us the inner world of those who are adjusted to life. He presents them as an external force, while the maladjusted, intellectual people are presented with all the inner details of their inner life." The maladjusted weak-willed character in Fadeev's novel was Mečik, a "negative type," who plays "a central role in the whole novel and ... determines the whole compositional structure and style of the novel." Contrasting with Mečik were Morozka and Baklanov, who are adjusted, crude, and obtuse. (Barooshian 1971: 40)
This theme recurs in the early dystopian novels as well. Orwell's 1984 is an especially good example, because his maladjusted intellectual protagonist discusses about his well-adjusted but crude acquaintances.


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