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??? COHPAnATIST DRAGAN KUJUNDZIC. The Returns ofHistory: Russian Nietzscheans After Modernity. Albany: State U ofNew York P, 1997. 219 pp. Here is a book that elicits a comparative approach to Russian literature by pulling together a nuanced set of theoretical concepts from other fields, producing what might be termed a "conceptualist" approach to literary history. Carefully selecting its influences from recent French theory and Freudian psychoanalysis for their effective value rather than current fashionability, the book opens comparative literature onto Russian studies in a way that is strikingly rare. Kujundzic tenders the thesis that a reading ofNietzsche after 1900 forms part ofthe credit on which Russian modemist literature and theory are drawn. Here the author allies himselfwith Boris Groys's thesis about Russian modernism: the influence ofNietzsche, repressed by the Soviets, is not simply present or absent, but has left traces. His book patiently tracks down these influences, weaving a compelling argument that Nietzsche's writings themselves function as a repressed memory of Russian modernism. The book then reinscribes the effects ofthat influence onto the continuum ofRussian literary history. This reinsertion ofNietzsche into Russian modernism might imply the filling of certain historical gaps, in the spirit of all good historical scholarship. But Kujundzic 's book also opens that past to new inspection. This is ofcourse an oft-cited definition ofthepas/modern, as the inscription ofan opening in the text ofmodernity . As Lyotard puts it in The Inhuman: Reflections on Time: "Modernity is constitutionally and ceaselessly pregnant with its postmodernity" (Stanford: Stanford UP, 1991, 25). It is instructive therefore to read Kujundzic's conclusion first, to reverse the normal order and consider the notion ofthe post or "after" as it informs the book as a whole. Doing so, one finds that the subtitle "After Modernity" can mean posterior in a temporal sense, but can also designate a quest toward something that obstinately remains ahead of one, such as a notion ofRussian literary modernity. The "after" ofthe subtitle thus upsets any simple periodization ofthe modern. Kujundzic's study inserts itself into the space ofthis disrupted periodization , thereby dropping a notion ofthe "untimely" into historical study even as it revalues Russian modernism by reinscribing Nietzsche into its history. Kujundzic's study can be seen to touch a raw nerve because, as Lyotard writes, "historical periodization belongs to an obsession that is characteristic ofmodernity. Periodization is a way ofplacing events in diachrony, and diachrony is ruled by the principle ofrevolution" (25). Perhaps with this premise in mind, Kujundzic rejects the strict periodization ofthe modem and demonstrates how the modem is already inhabited by an obsession with this "coming after," with a past that cannot be assimilated and that constantly insinuates itselfinto the present, delaying that present moment from taking its full shape. This is most evident in Russian modernism's interest in literary history, a concern often problematized in terms ofan anxiety of influence. The book forcefully details this point in discussing Yury Tynianov's idea of literary history as parody, as a repetition of the original literary work which inscribes in its successors the difference of laughter. In order to grasp this obsession with time, Kujundzic introduces into historical interpretation a psychoanalytic model oftemporality. He employs a striking parallel between the Freudian concept ofpersonal history, in which a traumatic event returns repeatedly to haunt the present and so needs to be duly worked through, and Nietzsche's well-known thesis concerning the excessive burden of history. This VcH. 23 (1999): 183 REVIEWS coupling ofNietzsche and Freud forms an axiomatic subtext from which the book draws its best insights into the idiosyncratic history ofRussian modernism. The modernist inclination toward questions oftemporality and historical legacy turns out to have a specifically Russian character, namely an antagonism to the legacy ofPeter the Great. As the one who opened Russia to the West, along with its historicity, Peter figures as a nonbiodegradable remainder ofRussian history. He is a petroglyph, whose very name acts as one ofthose Nietzschean stones that rumble in the stomach like so much undigested history. Peter is the pater of modern Russian history, and as the father figure of time haunts every attempt to theorize Russia's literary history. The actuality ofthis haunting is borne...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-0887
Print ISSN
0195-7678
Pages
pp. 183-184
Launched on MUSE
2012-10-03
Open Access
No
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