Vasily (Pavlovich) Aksenov Daniel C. Gerould - Essay

Daniel C. Gerould

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

In both the Soviet Union and the West, Vasilii Aksyonov is better known as a prose writer than as a playwright. His stories and novels of the early 1960s, such as Colleagues, Halfway to the Moon, and A Ticket to the Stars, dealing with the new, post-war generation of Soviet youth became popular with young readers in Russia….

Aksyonov's heroes speak a colloquial language full of juicy slang, often copy Western taste in dress and music, and travel lightly, without cumbersome ideological baggage. Skeptical yet naive, these uncommitted young people are in quest of romance and fellowship, hoping to fill the void in their empty personal lives and satisfy their vague yearnings for the heroic and meaningful.

Since Aksyonov—himself only thirty in 1962—depicted his characters sympathetically and honestly, he quickly became something of a spokesman for the new generation as well as for the emerging group of young Soviet writers associated with it. By the mid-1960s, however, Aksyonov abandoned the youth theme and turned his attention to artistic problems, attempting through stylistic experimentation and verbal parody to recapture the linguistic vitality and technical virtuosity of the early Soviet avant-garde.

It was in this spirit of exploration and re-animation of a dormant tradition that Aksyonov the novelist turned to the theatre in the mid-1960s and wrote two grotesque satires for the stage, Always on Sale and Your Murderer. With these two plays, Aksyonov performed an invaluable service: he reestablished contact between modern Soviet drama and the great line of Russian and early Soviet satirists, starting with Gogol, Sukhovo-Kobylin, and Shchedrin and continuing through Mayakovsky, Erdman, and Bulgakov. (p. 108)

Aksyonov approached the theatre not as a...

(The entire section is 762 words.)