Resisting 'Recumbency on The Past ': Literary Strategies for Overcoming Retromania in Maria Stepanova's Novel In Memory of Memory, (2017)


This article discusses the philosophical semi-documentary novel In Memory of Memory by Maria Stepanova (2017). The narrative about the past can be interpreted as a strategy of dealing with the dominant retro-utopian sentiments in Russian society. The history of several generations of Stepanova’s own family is depicted against the backdrop of tragic twentieth-century Russian upheavals which are transformed into  a meta-novel focusing on the workings of memory and ways of articulating it. The article identifies two strategies used in Stepanova’s novel to counter retro-utopianism. The first strategy is the choice of a hybrid genre – documentary fiction – to recount the events of family and national history. The second strategy relies on the concept of memory as a catalogue used to complete the ’work of grief’ in Russian literature and to help it escape its fixation on the past. These strategies in Stepanova’s novel appear to be closely connected with her reception of W.G. Sebald’s (1944-2001) works, in particular his documentary fiction.

Keywords: M. Stepanova, W.G. Sebald, documentary fiction, meta-novel, retromania

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