The Ubiquitous Nature of Authorial Commentary: Andrei Bitov’s Stylistic Experimentation

By Marina von Hirsch.

Published by The Humanities Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Every inquiry into Andrei Bitov’s narrative techniques reveals again and again what a pivotal role the discourse of literary commentary plays in his prose. Within this discourse, the more or less traditional distinction between a professional critic’s commentary about a creative text written by some author (in other words, critical commentary) and a commentary by the author regarding his own text (in other words, literary commentary), appears to be deliberately and at times totally blurred by Bitov, in whose writings fictional and critical aspects of literature tend to merge.

Writers normally implement commentary to pursue two major purposes: 1) hermeneutic, or interpretative, and/or 2) purely technical, or formal, when it is utilized as a means of structural organization of the narrative. Naturally, an overlap of all the aforementioned categories frequently occurs; therefore, it is at times impossible, and also unnecessary, to treat them as completely separate units. The ambiguous concept of commentary does not seem to be supported by any unified or comprehensive theory either as a literary or critical phenomenon. Indeed, it is the specificity of each literary work that accounts for the absence of a universal theory of commentary. Bitov certainly exploits the ability of commentary to create new discourses and new forms of commentary endlessly.

Among other things, Bitov’s commentaries on different writers and on his own work instruct readers of the future to read effectively. In these innovative and unconventional commentaries and critical essays, there is a transformation of the critical discourse: the creative writer’s fantasy transcends scholarly factual precision, gradually turning critical commentary into a literary, fictional one. Paradoxically, the culmination of this transformation can be observed not in the essays, but in the fiction.

Keywords: Commentary, Fiction, Prose, Intertext, Narrative

The International Journal of the Humanities, Volume 5, Issue 4, pp.245-252. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 508.685KB).

Dr. Marina von Hirsch

Assistant Professor of English, Arts and Sciences, Bainbridge College, Bainbridge, Georgia, USA

Marina von Hirsch is a native of Moscow who currently resides in Florida and teaches English writing and composition at Bainbridge College, Georgia. In 1997 she received her Ph.D. in Humanities after having written a distinguished comparative dissertation entitled “Literature as Commentary in Andrei Bitov’s Prose: The Nabokov Link.” Her research and writing have focused chiefly on the works of Andrei Bitov. She has published essays on Bitov, as well as interviews with other Russian authors. She also writes reviews for “American Book Review.”

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