La fattualità del male: la non finction novel e le sue versioni sovietiche


Parole chiave:

Truman Capote, Lev Ginzburg, Sergei Tretyakov, Eichmann Trial, Non-fiction Literature


Two books which appeared almost simultaneously on both sides of the Iron Curtain share similar, analytical and unusual, indications as to their genre: Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood: “The true account of a Multiple Murder and Its Consequences” (the author would usually refer to his text as “Nonfiction Novel”) and Lev Ginzburg’s The Abyss “A Narrative Based on Documents”. A similarity can be traced on the thematic plan as well: In Cold Blood is centered on the murders’ story, while The Abyss is based on the records of a trial to collaborationists serving in the SS during the war and taking part in the mass murders of Soviet civilians, reporting for the first time in the Soviet Union about their personal histories: both authors undertake an inquiry on the nature of Evil - they are both, probably, written under the impression of Eichmann’s trial and possibly of Arendt’s book - and, in order to undertake this task, they both challenge traditional literary categories. Is there a necessary connection between the thematic and the generic plans? A definitive answer can hardly be reached. A parallel reading of the American debate on Capote and the Soviet one - not on Ginzburg in particular, but about the blooming genre that at the time was beginning to be called “documentary literature” - can help shed some light. Both Capote and Ginzburg aim at a narrative of reality clearly detached from novelist traditions, however different those were in their respective countries. In the United States, this meant setting oneself apart from a modernist tradition that had renounced to any pretense to depict society; in the Soviet Union, to set oneself free from the Socialist Realist canon, doubting of its capacity to give a meaningful depiction of the horrors of the Twentieth Century (a tradition which will develop up to Svetlana Aleksievich). In both cases, anyway, a criticism of the conventions of Realism was implied, clearly resounding, at a glance from today, the late avant-garde. In the Soviet debate of the Sixties, however, any reminding of it was significantly missing - the only mention of Sergei Tretyakov and the “literature of fact” are in quotations from an American review of Capote. The disappearing of Tretyakov from the Soviet debate has yet to be explained: was censorship the reading, or was his name totally unknown to the younger writers? A renewed interest in the avant-garde can, anyway, be observed in the Soviet Union in the Sixties, clearly connected with the atmosphere of destalinization. A resurgence of avant-gard experimentation is characteristic for the Western world in the same era. Both Capote’s and Ginzburg’s texts are conceived in this atmosphere, and after the Eichmann trial, which is considered a milestone in the development of a new attitude towards the Shoah and its witnesses. On both sides of the divide, it seems - and as several further instances show - it was the attempt to “write poetry after Auschwitz” that caused to question novelistic conventions.






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