Remembering Late Socialism

Reanimating/Resisting Late Soviet Monstrosity: Generational Self-Reflection and Lessons of Responsibility in Alexei Ivanov’s Pischeblok [The Food Unit]




remembering late Soviet period, generatiography, generational self-reflection, metamodernism, Alexei Ivanov


Remembering late socialism through child perspectives in (auto)fictional writing has been a prominent practice in contemporary Russian literature. In particular, the early 1980s focalized by young protagonists have become the subject of three recent novels, by Alexei Ivanov, Shamil’ Idiatullin and Alexander Arkhangelsky. This article closely examines one of these novels, Alexei Ivanov’s Pischeblok [The Food Unit] published in 2016, asking how it articulates the generation that was coming of age during the 1980s and considering the ethical implications of this articulation. The reading approaches this question by examining the genre characteristics of the novel which involve a tension between ‘generatiography’ and fantasy, and between the realist and post-post-modernist modes. It argues that this hybridity of genre and a metamodernist oscillation allow for creating a multilayered representation of the late Soviet as a space of improvisational possibilities involving play with petty monsters as well as of genuine monstrosity embodying the darker side of the Soviet. The article outlines the novel’s generational self-reflection which involves re-familiarizing the readers with the ideals that existed within socialism but were not realized by the generation which internalized state socialism’s monstrous side. At the same time, the return to the moment of struggling with this monstrosity creates an alternative turning point and the possibility of responsibility-taking.

Author Biography

Ksenia Robbe, University of Groningen

Ksenia Robbe is Senior lecturer in European Culture and Literature at the University of Groningen with the focus on Russian literature and culture. She works at the interfaces of postcolonial and postsocialist studies and develops approaches of comparative memory and time studies to ‘post-transitional’ contexts in her current research. She is the author of Conversations of Motherhood: South African Women’s Writing Across Traditions (University of KwaZulu-Natal Press, 2015) and co-editor of Post-Soviet Nostalgia: Confronting the Empire’s Legacies (Routledge, 2019) and (Un)timely Crises: Chronotopes and Critique (Palgrave, 2021). She is currently editing the volume Remembering Transitions: Local Revisions and Global Crossings in Culture and Media (De Gruyter). She is the PI of the NETIAS project ‘Reconstituting Publics through Remembering Transitions: Facilitating Critical Engagement with the 1980–90s on Local and Transnational Scales.’





Remembering Late Socialism