Vasily (Pavlovich) Aksenov Vytas Dukas - Essay

Vytas Dukas

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[In The Steel Bird and Other Stories Vasily Aksenov's] heroes are free and unencumbered in their relationships with others. Moreover they are critical, cynical, occasionally rebellious and basically apolitical. Russian critics, however, while faulting Aksenov for his writing about the "Beatle generation" (stiljažestvo), praise him for his traditional use of humor, fantasy and symbolism….

[The title story] has not appeared in the Soviet Union; only a short excerpt called "The House of Lamplight Alley" was published in the Literaturnaja Gazeta in 1966. The hero of the novel, Popenkov, although he is not Stalin, acts like him by opposing people and by establishing his own cult of personality. The criticism of oppression in the novel is not limited to the Soviet Union; the steel birds are all over the world, but in the Soviet Union they are more evident…. While Aksenov perhaps wished to expose the crooked road to communism, the Soviet censors (editors) saw something else and rejected the work. And indeed the novel is full of allusions not only to various literary and historical mileposts of Russian civilization, but also to Stalin and the KGB….

[In another story, "Oranges from Morocco"] Aksenov, keeping our attention by his use of the fruit, exposes contemporary society in his portrayal of various characters who use slang, jocular allusions and current slogans. His references to such topics as thefts, love affairs, antagonism between national groups and admiration for modern art and Epicurean tastes make his prose vivid, innovative and daring.

Vytas Dukas, "Russian: 'The Steel Bird and Other Stories'," in World Literature Today (copyright 1979 by the University of Oklahoma Press), Vol. 53, No. 3, Summer, 1979, p. 520.