Russian Style in Emigration: Edward Limonov's Anglicisms

Felix Dreizin (Ithaca, N.Y.)

1. Introduction

Soviet Russians are extremely sensitive about the purity of their literary language. They are ready to fight for it, they proclaim this goal in their newspapers, tear-off calendars and radio broadcasts. V.I.Lenin is considered the model fighter for the purity of Russian. His objections to new uses of the verb dovlet' (prevail) are widely known. Soviet satirists mock awkward colloquialisms. Norms of literary usage are fervently discussed by linguists (see, for example, Kachevskaya and Gorbachevich). Provincialisms, dialectal and personal aberrations are not tolerated. The tradition of Russian skaz (narrator's individualized and artistically significant linguistic image) seems to have been forgotten. Referring mainly to Stalin's era, Efim Ėtkind called the Soviet literary language "a purified imperial language" (14). Purity of the Russian language is both an intellectuals' religion and a Soviet official policy, though the linguistic ideals involved in these two cases are not exactly the same.
Some leading contemporary Russian writers perceive the present state of the literary Russian as a deep crisis. In Alexander Solzhenitsyn's terms, this crisis is a "disaster" (beda, 266). Sasha Sokolov echoes these thoughts when, in defiance of the famous Turgenev's characterization of Russian as a "great, mighty, truthful and free" language, he coins his own formula: izverivšijsja jazyk, i.e. "a disheartened language", "a language that has lost confidence in itself" ("Ne razmykaja ust", 1). As a way out of this crisis, some Russian authors have adopted the policy of breaking the currently prevailing Russian stylistic taboos.
A major offence against the Russian literary language next to obscenity is "littering" (zasorenie) it with foreignisms. Borrowings from foreign languages are done in a highly controlled manner. Though the purity of Russian suffers heavily in Soviet computer science, which has been flooded by English words, the general attitute to borrowings remains unchanged.
The problem of borrowings is especially acute for an émigré Russian writer. The typical Russian response to the pressure of a foreign culture and language is to retain, at all cost, the impenetrable purity of ethnocentric values and the mother tongue. Russian visitor writers abroad, and especially in America, rejected the foreign reality as inhuman. For Gorky, Mayakovsky and Esenin, New York City was a symbol of "machine civilization". English borrowings in Mayakovsky's writings are unwelcome, alien objects.
Edward Limonov is a major Russian writer of the "Third Wave" emigration. In this paper one facet of Limonov's activity is dealt with: his position with respect to the traditional Russians' image of their literary language as a national treasure, an embodiment of the Russian ethnic identity. This position was commented on, among others, by Il'ja Levin (266-268), Judson Rosengrant (193) and Olga Matich ("Moral Immoralist", 536). Though very insightful, these comments are fragmentary and refer to Limonov's earlier writings. The present paper is an attempt to present this Russian author's style in a more systematic way. The main object of stylistic analysis is Limonov's novel Palač (The Torturer, 1986), but some trends in Limonov's use of Anglicisms are also traced.


2. Functions of Limonov's Anglicisms

Thematically and artistically, Anglicisms in The Torturer function basically as they do in Limonov's previous work. Some accents are different, some devices are new, and the whole undertaking has been brought to its "logical end".

Subversion of the Russian Literary Language. The main function of Limonov's foreignisms was defined by Olga Matich as "deflation" of the Russian literary language ("Moral Immoralist", 536). Rosengrant has pointed out Limonov's "systematic subversion of the norms of Russian literary style" (193). This function may be secondary with respect to Limonov's skaz style, but it is mainly the "non-literary" quality of his language which offends many purists among his émigré readers. Limonov could not be unaware of the explosive force of his innovations. He is hostile not so much to the Soviet authorities, as to the elitist Soviet anti-establishment and its taboos. Traditionally, a Russian writer is a public figure, a teacher of life, and above all an embodiment of national values and ideals. Edward Limonov is this image's antipode, an individualistic fighter against the primacy of social values and norms. His position in The Torturer is that of a Manhattan Russian talking to a particular group created by the "third emigration". Limonov pretends not to care about the metropolitan audience. Russian is presented in The Torturer as a sort of foreign language. It is with simulated difficulty that the author "translates" his Manhattan English into Russian. In The Torturer, Edward Limonov is a runaway author addressing a runaway tribe.

The "Just So" Style. Limonov's prose books are meant to be a voice de profundis rather than from the Olympian heights of pure art, though this objective is pursued with considerable artistry. In particular, Limonov uses a number of devices to create the impression of complete real-life authenticity of his narrative. This is close to what Rosengrant called extension of "the accuracy of representation" (93). The Torturer should read as a documentary. This objective is served by mentioning real people, by obsessively concrete topography and by a flood of Anglicisms. The reader should always be aware of protagonists' speaking and thinking English. This kind of linguistic realism is usual in the modern cinema, and there seems to be a general cinematic intention in the book.

New York: the Beast, the Torturer. Limonov's relationships with New York City have been uneven. In his previous books of the American cycle, Ėto ja Ėdička (It's Me, Eddie) and Dnevnik neudačnika (Diary of a Loser), his hatred had an admixture of love. In The Torturer, love has almost completely disappeared. The author's accusations against New York are not very different from the traditional Russian attitude to this "Iron Mirgorod", as Esenin called it. By the way, the word Mirgorod (Gogol's symbol of provincial Philistinism), occurs in It's Me, Eddie (242). In his capacity as a nationalist Russian writer abroad, Limonov hates English. He is disgusted by Nabokov's "bare old hairy English-speaking legs" (Diary of a Loser, 170). The heaviest of the Russian author's undigested borrowings from Manhattan English are meant to be as grotesque as the objects they refer to. This is an amplified edition of Mayakovsky's device. The role of Anglicisms as an expression of Limonov's estrangement from the New World was pointed out by Rosengrant (193) and Levin (267).

"I Don't Want to Be a Russian Writer." Despite his deep and often aggressive Russianness (or probably just because of it), Limonov seems not to feel safe when he uses his native language in his books of the American cycle. He is afraid of enclosing himself in a "gloomy literary ghetto" of emigration ("O sebe", 220). One may think that sometimes Limonov's Anglicisms are his subconscious attempts to break through to the American reader. Some passages in It's Me, Eddie are directly addressed to the western audience.


3. The Anglicisms

We will now try to give a complete account of Anglicisms in The Torturer. Examples from other books of Limonov's will be provided mainly for comparison.

Borrowed Words. Some of Limonov's borrowings may be justified by the nature of their reference. Of the many English words used in The Torturer in Cyrillic transliteration and Russian morphological form, the most prominent is parti (party, casual friendly gathering). Translations of the word "party" in English-to-Russian dictionaries are not co-extensional with this word: večer is a more or less official gathering at night time, večerinka is a small gathering at night time, and priem gostej (reception of guests) is both misleading (a party is not necessarily a reception) and awkward It is hardly used colloquially. There is a Russian word for "party for children in the day time" (utrennik), a word for "drinking gathering" (p'janka). There are ways to refer to a New Year's party, to a birthday party, to a May the 1st party and November the 7th party. However, there is no word that covers all the above usages.
Limonov firmly inserts the word parti into his vocabulary. It is an indeclinable noun of the neuter gender, like pal'to (coat). The English expression "birthday party" is humorously rendered by Limonov as den'roždenčeskoe parti, with a compound adjective formed on den' roždenija (day of birth).
It is worthwhile to comment on Edward Limonov's boj-frend (boy friend) and gerl-frend (girl friend). The institute of boy/girl friends is alien to Russians. The word ljubovnik means "lover", the word sožitel' (in-house lover) is restrictive and coarse. A Russian may say "This is my girl/guy", but the usage in this case is different (it may include, for example, a causal relationship). The phrase molodoj čelovek (young man) suffers similarly. Besides, it is a "Philistine", pretentious expression.
The Russians do not have a general word for the English "drink" (Limonov's drink): a unit fo drinkable stuff and social intercourse, and they do not have the corresponding concept. They usually mention a specific container (a glass, a goblet), or completely avoid the idea of unit: "He brought some vodka" (for himself or a group, in goblets or bottles).
Similarly favorable conditions for borrowing exist in the case of Limonov's parking (parking, noun), which is also an emigré Russian word. The Russian garaž means a parking building, a stojanka means an open, roofless parking. The general word is missing. The noun parking seems to be ready to penetrate the metropolitan Russian, or even has already done so. The words parkovka (parking, verbal noun), (pri-)parkovat'(-sja) (to park) are already used by the Soviet media.
Typically American objects provide an ample source of Edward Limonov's Americanisms: big mak (Big Mac), aptaun (uptown), midtaun (midtown), dildo (dildo, artificial penis; in It's me, Eddie the obscene Russian description rezinovyj xuj (rubber cock) was used). The following words occur, among others, both in It's me, Eddie and The Torturer: dauntaun (downtown), džoint (joint, marijuana cigarette), loft (loft).
The author's "subversive" intention is especially clear, however, in those cases where his borrowings have exact Russian equivalents: sabvej (in It's me, Eddie: sobvej) instead of the Russian metro (subway), token (token) instead of žeton (which was used in It's me, Eddie), refridzerejtor (refrigerator) instead of xolodil’nik, kėb (cab) instead of taksi, amater (amateur) instead of diletant or ljubitel'. Ti-Vi (TV, televison set) instead of televizor, luzer (loser) instead of neudačnik, baks (bucks, dollars) instead of dollary, prodjuser (producer) instead of režisser, toksido (toxedo) instead of frak, apartment (apartment) instead of kvartira, elevejtor (elevator) instead of lift (which may occur in It's me, Eddie and Diary of a Loser), Šit! (Shit!) or Fak! (Fuck!) instead of Eb tvoju mat'! or Bljad'!, and very many others.
There are some borderline cases. The word rummejt (roommate), which occurs in It's me, Eddie, Diary of a Loser and The Torturer, translates into Russian as tovarišč/podruga po komnate (a friend with whom a room is shared). Though an exact Russian equivalent exists in this and similar cases, the borrowing has the advantage of brevity. Besides, this "friend" may in fact turn into a foe (cf. tovarišč po kamere, cellmate), which may be of importance for the linguistically conscious author. The Russian podrostok does not seem to be exactly co-extensional with the English and Limonov's tinejdžer (teenager), gard (gard) with oxrannik, storož or vaxter, and dormen (doorman) with žvejcar.

Russian Derivatives of Borrowed Words. The word land (lunch) has been widely adopted by Russian émigrés instead of obed, the meal they used to eat at lunch time in the U.S.S.R. It is used even by a generally puristic writer Sasha Sokolov, though with a satiric purpose ("Saša Sokolov o sebe", 205). The reason for this borrowing seems to be the fact that obed is the basic meal of a day rather than a midday meal. Limonov uses the participle lančujuščij (lunching) formed on the borrowed verb lancevat' (to lunch) and the adjective poslelančevyj (after-lunch). In It's me, Eddie he uses the adjective lančevyj (of lunch). The adjectiv viledžskij is formed on Viledž ((Greenwich) Village), the adjective daun-taunovskij (of downtown) — on daun-taun (downtown), the noun vėlfėrovec (one who lives on welfare) — on vėlfėr (welfare, in It's me, Eddie and Diary of a Loser).

"English" Meanings of Russian Words. Till now we considered simple borrowings which are easily identifiable by a non-native reader. However, these borrowings are only the lowest layer of the author's Americanization of Russian. It is more interesting to spot Russian words with unusual meanings, or in unusual word combinations, as if they were used over the American substratum. With few exceptions, this device was not used by Limonov before The Torturer. The novel It's Me, Eddie contains minutnyj (Minute (Rice)) and černyj (black, color) with the meaning of the Russian negr (black person, cf. "the blacks"). In Diary of a Loser social'nyj (social) occurs instead of obščestvennyj (where people meet).
Examples from The Torturer: isključitel'nyj (exclusive; a "wrong translation" of the English word is chosen instead of zakrytyj, privilegirovannyj, modnyj), special'nyj (special, very good; the same device of "wrong translation"), real'nyj (real, as in "real life") instead of prostoj (simple, about people), publičnyj (public, about baths) instead of obšcestvennyj, skoncentrirovannyj (concentrated) instead of naprjažennyj, bol'noj (the literal translation of "sick" in "sick murder", a deviation from the Russian use of bol'noj), etc. Probably the most prominent example of this kind is the Russian word bezopasen (not to be afraid of) used as a "wrong translation" of "safe" instead of neujazvim or zaščiščen (in Limonov's context (228): not afraid). This is a typically English case of neutralizing the voice opposition which has to be obligatorily expressed in Russian.
A somewhat similar play on Russian word meanings against the background of American and British slang was used more than 25 years ago by Anthony Burgess in Clockwork Orange, as observed by Stanley E. Hyman (180). The Russian word kopat' (to dig) is used as "enjoy" or "understand", the Russian ptica (bird) is used as "chick" (girl, woman), puška (cannon) as "pistol" (exactly as in the Russian thieves' slang, which Burgess could hardly have known), sumka (bag) as "ugly woman", roža (grimace) as "rozzer" (policeman), etc. The Russian spellings in Burgess' book are correspondingly kopat, ptitsa, pooshka, soomka and rozz. This word play could have been grasped by Burgess' English readers only with a tedious dictionary search, which must have been complicated by the author's idiosyncratic spellings. Burgess seems to have picked his Russian mostly by ear, cf. his spelling of kontora (office) as cantora and bogatyj (rich) as bugatty. In the American edition, a glossary of the "Nadsat" slang was provided. As for Limonov's effects, they are easily understandable by a Russian émigré with some experience in English.

Compound Nouns. English nominal combinations with proposed dependent nouns are rendered by Limonov as Russian compound nouns. Such nouns my be written as one word, or with a dash or blank in the middle. The English word-order is preserved. Both English nouns may be transliterated, or else one may be transliterated and the other translated: Ės end Ėm magaziny (S and M shops, sadomasochistic shops), rezident-otel' (resident hotel), anėmplojment-ček (unemployment check), avokado-salat (avocado salad), superstar sootečestvennik (superstar compatriot), kokain-diler (cocaine dealer), fešen dom (fashion house), biznes-operacija (business operation), "Šell" benzokolonka (Shell gas station), striptiz-gerl (striptease girl), sajmon-stejk (salmon steak), sjurpriz-orgija (surprise orgy), besides the perfectly Russian orgija-sjurpriz, ljubvidelanie (love making). Note that Limonov does not use here the Russian model: ljubvedelanie. This list may be expanded by the more assimilated Orandžus (orange juice, a proper (!) noun) and džindžarella (ginger ale) in It's Me, Eddie, and mejkaposmyvanie (cream for removing make-up) in Diary of a Loser. The last word uses a combination of English and Russian roots glued together according to a Russian word-building model.

Unusual Transliterations. Limonov systematically uses idiosyncratic transliterations for American words which were borrowed by the Russians long ago and well assimilated. Thus the foreignness of assimilated words is refreshed, and the accepted Russian orthography defied. Limonov writes Madison (Madison, avenue) instead of Mėdison, which he used in It's Me, Eddie and Diary of a Loser, Xadson (Hudson, river) instead of Gudzon, and Xouston (Houston, street) instead of X'juston, Manxėttan (Manhattan) instead of Manxėttėn, N'ju-Džerzi (New Jersey, in It's Me, Eddie and Diary of a Loser) instead of N'ju-Džersi, Dzamejka (Jamaica) instead of Jamajka. Almost all words of this kind are toponyms, with few exceptions. For example, N'ju-Jork Taimz (New York Times) (instead of N'ju-Jork Taims) may be mentioned (It's me, Eddie and Diary of a Loser).
Sometimes Limonov defies the habits of Russian transliteration, rather than some concrete spellings. His transliterations of English words follow the American pronunciation, which is against the Russian tradition. Examples: badi (body) instead of bodi, staks (stocks) instead of stoks, stap (stop) instead of stop (in Diary of a Loser, cf. the transliteration Stop kraj! (Stop crying!) in Aksenov's The Burn cited by Levin, 264), madel (model) instead of model, the Russian manekenščica (It's me, Eddie), xat-dog (hot-dog) instead of xot-dog. In the last case the second part of the compound is transliterated in the traditional way.

Phraseology. Limonov often translates English phrases literally: imet' xorošee/vosxititel'noe vremja (to have a good/delightful time), delat' ljubov' and (in It's Me, Eddie) also prodelat' ljubov' (to make love), Zdravstvujte zdes' (Hallo there), Nikakoj problemy (No problem), vovlečen v politiku (involved in politics) instead of zanimalsja politikoj, polučit' telefonnyj zvonok (to get a telephone call), Kak vse dvizetsja? (How is everything moving?). There is a case of improper, "literal" rendering of a verb-preposition combination: pokinut' N'ju-Jork dlja Džersi-Siti (to leave New York for Jersey City) instead of pereexat' iz N'ju-Jorka v Džersi-Siti. The Russians use the literal translation of "make money" (delat' den'gi) as a satiric description of the American way of life. Limonov refreshes this expression by producing its perfective: sdelat' den'gi. The expression "That's your problem" (Ėto ne moe delo, Ėto menja ne kasaetsja), literally translated as Ėto vaša problema (It's Me, Eddie), serves as a symbol of American inhumanity.

Syntax. Limonov often uses English word order in his Russian sentences. Sometimes this fact becomes clear in context. Example: Kogda poslednie den'gi ležat v tvoem karmane, ty vsegda točno znaeš', skol'ko ix u tebja (When the last money is in your pocket, you always know exactly how much you have, 22). The correct word order is the following: Kogda v tvoem karmane ležat poslednie den'gi…By the way, the expression v tvoem karmane (in your pocket) is an Anglicism too; the correct Russian version is u tebja v karmane. Consider also the following dialogue (67):

Davno vy pokinuli Pol'šu? (How long ago did you leave Poland?)
Bolee šesti let nazad ja pokinul Pol'šu. (I left Poland more than six years ago). The correct word order is Ja pokinul Pol'šu bolee sesti let nazad.
Vlasti izgnali vas iz strany ili vy uexali sami? (Were you expelled by the authorities, or did you leave on your own?) A better word order could be something like Vas izgnali iz strany vlasti… or Vas vlasti izgnali iz strany

From the author's point of view, the repulsive content deserves an adequately ugly linguistic form. One may suggest that in the above example the foreign word order may be attributed to the Russian colloquial style, and should be counterbalanced by a proper intonation. However, the context seems to prohibit such interpretation. The "mechanical", rather than vividly colloquial, character of the dialogue is strenghtened by the awkward wording and a full answer, instead of an elliptic one, which resembles a bad phrase-book.
More examples:

1. Ocertanija Evropy obnaruzilis' (The contours of Europe appeared, 142). The correct word order: Obnaruzilis' ocertanija Evropy.
2. Uderžat' žertvu xvatilo by i dosok, no dubovye stvoly pošli na ėtu vešč'. (To hold a victim, some boards would have been enough, but oak trunks were used for this thing, 127) The preferable word order: …no na ėtu vešč' pošli dubobye stvoly.
3. Dostatočno ljudej v samomazoxizme sejčas. (Enough people are now into sado-masochism, 128). A better word order: V sadomazoxizme sejčas dostatočno ljudej.
4. Svet bylnapravlen na potolok dve krošečnye lampočki davali ego… (The light was directed towards the ceiling, it came from two tiny bulbs, 137) The preferable word order: …ego davali dve krošečnye lampočki.
5. Ėto ne sovsem jasno Oskaru. (This is not quite clear to Oscar, 179). What is needed is something like Ėto Oskaru ne sovsem jasno.
6. …Tščeslavie rukovodit misterom Xudzinski. (Vanity leads Mr. Chudzinsky, 140). The preferable word order: …Misterom Xudzinski rukovodit tščeslavie. It is clear from the pagination of these examples that they come as a relatively compact cluster, mainly after the middle of the novel.

Limonov forms the expression trinadcatiletnjaja genial'nost' (thirteen year old genius) on the English model of "young beauty". In Russian, the word genial'nost' (the quality of a genius) can designate a person only in the expression sama genial'nost' (the embodiment of genius's qualities). This case is close to those considered under the heading of "English" Meanings of Russian Words.

Non-Cyrillic Insertions. These are not very numerous in Limonov's books: "single room occupancy (hotel)", "SRO hotel", "PhD", "CIA", "FBI" and "US" (Diary of a Loser), "OK", "6 p.m. — 9 p.m." (the usual time for the bitterly unwelcome Gabriel's visits), "Embassy" (a welfare hotel, It's Me, Eddie and Diary of a Loser), "My heart belongs to daddy" (about a case of incest), "Club" (the magazine), "Fuck you!", "Retirement Insurance Policy", "Star Wars", "RR" (subway line), "go inside of me" (a timid promise of a "Philistine" American girl). The last six examples are from Diary of a Loser. Non-Cyrillic insertions are not typical for The Torturer.


4. Limonov's Anglicisms and Cross-Linguistic Incongruences

Limonov is hypersensitive to cultural and linguistic incongruencies. He invites the reader to participate in every bit of his "culture shock". In particular, his Americanization of Russian projects some typological distinctions between American and Russian speech.

Lexica. We have discussed the lack of general Russian words translating the English "party", "drink" and "parking". One may add here the difficulty of translating the word "message". Dictionaries provide the following more concrete Russian words: soobščenie, donesenie, pis'mo, poslanie. The words soobščenie and donesenie are related to specific circumstances of a message (spying, reconnaissance, battle). The same is true of the word poslanie, which is appropriate for international relations. The words pis'mo or zapiska are related to a specific form of message (a text written by the sender). Limonov solves this problem by adopting the word mesidž (It's Me, Eddie).
A closer consideration shows that the difference between English and Russian in all the above cases is related to the abstract/concrete opposition only at the level of literal, word-by-word translation. More significantly, the (cross-language) tendency to treat events as things (cf. B.Comrie) does not seem to work in the same way in English and Russian speech. For Limonov, this difference is amplified by the fact that he projects the colloquial Russian onto a more formal style of English.
Compared to English speakers, the Russians are more inclined to cast their experience of actions, states and events in verbs rather than nouns. Where an English speaker says: "could you take a message?", a Russian will say: Peredajte, požalujsta (literally: "Pass over", "Transfer"). The English "Let's have a party" is aptly rendered in Russian as Davajte soberemsja (literally: "Let's gather"). Cf. also the formal English "Could you give a contribution?" and the colloquial "Pitch in and give!" (in Russian, složimsja, skinemsja or sbrosimsja). Of course, both English and Russian speakers often may choose from the two alternative ways of expression, the nominal and the verbal.
An english speaker asks: "Will you have a drink?", while a Russian says something like Vy vypit'/popit' xoute? (literally: "Do you want to drink?"). Of course, the Russian vypit' usually involves a larger quantity than a western drink, and the Russians are more specific than English speakers about the distinction between the respectable popit' (to drink water, juice, etc.) and the shameful vypit' (to drink alcohol).

Phraseology and Syntax. Limonov likes to play on the prolific English use of "have". New Yorkers are open to the Russian author's satire by virtue of their having not only books, chairs, apartments, children, dogs and clothes, but also nice days, walks, rests, naps, moods, etc. A person's relation to all these forms of experience seems to Limonov to be rendered in English in a kind of proprietary terms. Among the best examples of this trend, one may point at the commented advertisement from It's Me, Eddie (reversely translated portions of text which are typed in bold face are satiric literal and intentionally awkward renderings of English expressions):

You have (vy imeete) a long hot day around the pool (vokrug bassejna), and you are ready (vy sklonny, gotovy — Limonov "hesitates" to choose the right word from his dictionary) to have your usual favorite summer drink (imet' napitok). But today you feel a desire to hesitate (zakolebat'sja). So, you do something different (koe-čto drugoe). You have (vy imeete) Campari and orange juice (Orandžus) instead.
I've never had (ne imel) a long hot day around a pool (vokrug bassejna). I admit I've never swum in a pool. Yesterday I had (imel) a disgusting cold morning near the welfare center in the 14th street (277).

There is still another dimension in the Russian perception of "have". Syntactic and phraseological patterns remotely recalling the English (and more closely, the German) usage are found in the speech of the older generation of the Russian jews. The Russian-Yiddish Ix xob mir literally translating to Russian as Ja sebe imeju (I have for myself) is a humorous linguistic symbol of the prerevolutionary Jewish ghetto (mestečko). Russian intellectuals (including assimilated Jews) like to play on words, syntactic patterns and intonations related to the Jewish substratum of the "Odessa dialect".
In one of his typical moods, Limonov perceives America as a "mere Odessa" ("Krym", 46): "a vulgar, backward country" (Vul'garnaja strana, nerazvitaja). Thus he relates the New World to the Russian city from which a specific kind of industrious mythical Jew comes. The Odessa symbol is quite important in the contemporary Russian émigré literature (cf., for example, Alexander Solzhenitsyn's Parvus in Lenin in Zurich). Isaac Babel in "Odessa Tales" used "Odessa dialect" with a considerable artistry. He tried to create a romantic counter-image to the mythical Odessa. Many expressions from Babel's collection of short stories became widely known by the Russian intelligencia.
In the above excerpt from It's Me, Eddie three languages meet: American English, Russian and (a shadow of) Yiddish.
Among the linguistic means of characterization, it is mainly phraseology and syntax which convey Limonov's negative attitude to America (when it is negative). In particular, the English "fixed" word order in some of his sentences has to produce an image of mechanistic, inhuman (American) rigidity and computer-like rationality, as opposed to the author's (Russian) spontaneity and unlimited human warmth.


5. Concluding Remarks

Some Stylistic Contrasts. The flood of barbarisms co-exists in The Torturer with a very authentic Russian. Two elements may be mentioned which stand in contrast to the intentionally awkward foreign borrowings. Limonov is a virtuoso with Russian obscenities (mat). Full mastery of this stylistic layer presupposes a close knowledge of Russians and Russian life. It is streets and suburbs which provide the relevant field experience. Limonov uses obscene words with an unprecedented casualness on nearly every page. The obscene language in the novel parallels other expressions of the plebeian and "anti-social" theme, but stands in a relative contrast to the foreign element. This is an oasis of the author's national identity.
Another stylistic layer in The Torturer stands in contrast both to the foreign and plebeian elements: the Church Slavonic words posemu (because of that), vozvestit' (to proclaim, to announce), lik (face), prišestvie (coming), vkušat' (to eat), and onyj (that). Thematically close to this layer is the folkloric o dvux ėtažax(two-storey). All these expressions appear in the second half of the novel, where the "saint" Jacek Gutor plays an important role, and where the protagonist's moral values are examined.

A Breach in the "Linguistic Realism". There is one detail in The Torturer that makes the narrator's English suspect, and in any case spoils the linguistic realism of the novel. To Oskar Chudzinsky's distress, the "saint" pauper Jacek Gutos addresses the multi-billionaire Gabriel Chroniadis (162) using the singular imperative dopej (drink up), which implies the intimate ty (thou) rather than the formal Vy (you). It is difficult to understand how Jacek could express this distinction in modem English.

A Common Device. Another leading Russian emigre writer, Sasha Sokolov, usually much more puristic than Edward Limonov, may also use Anglicisms for satiric purposes ("Saša Sokolov o sebe", 205). As opposed to the Russian pisatel' (writer), Sokolov bitterly jokes, the American raiter is a person who writes letters and fills tax return forms. A negative attitude shows in imet' lanč (the literal translation of "to have a lunch"), and Littračer Bijond Politiks ("literature beyond politics", in the context describing the excessive vigilance of certain official North-American bodies). The use of foreignisms with satiric purposes is a traditional Russian device going back at least to Mayakovsky.

The American Cycle and Beyond. The culture shock experienced by Limonov in the New World served in The Torturer mainly for linguistic realism and as an outlet for the author's frustration and negative feelings towards America. This was the last service rendered to Edward Limonov by his tribulations in this country (now he lives in Paris). Sometime in the middle of his America cycle the émigré author started a new line of autobiographical novels, in which the American theme was forgotten. There are almost no foreignisms in The Teenaged Savenko and The Young Scoundrel. An attack on the Russian literary language gave way to other artistic endeavors.

Split Sentences and Idiosyncratic Pronouns. The Torturer may seem quite simple on first reading. However, Anglicisms and obscenity are not the only characteristics of the novel's style. Some devices do not serve the theme of Limonov's relation to America. The author tries to individualize his syntax by long parenthetical expressions (in commas rather than in parentheses) which split his sentences. A much more interesting feature of his language is a specific attitute to pronouns, and especially the reflexive pronoun sebja (self). It seems that it is rooted in a peculiar relationship between the author and the hero of his autobiographical writings. In It's Me, Eddie the author refers to his hero as "I", and sometimes as Ėdička (Eddie). In The Teenaged Savenko and The Young Scoundrel Limonov's hero Ėdi-bėbi, Ėdi, Limonov, Ėduard Savenko and Ėd), is never "I". It is "he", an external object The fact that in The Torturer Oskar …dumaet …o sebe v tret'em lice…(thinks about himself in the third person, 140) is among the ample evidence that he is an incarnation of the author's autobiographic hero. The feature in question is most strikingly exemplified in a poem (published in Russkoe) in which the author refers to himself as to "it": …Ja ležit (The I is reclined, 57). These peculiarities of the writer's self-reference reflect his obvious narcissism (cf., for example, Matich, "The Moral Immoral ist").
In The Torturer, this aspect of Limonov's self-perception shows mainly as a formal stylistic device. He not only abandons the word sebja, but in many cases defies the rules for using anaphoric pronouns when they refer to human beings. Despite his "plebeian" (raznočinnyj) factography of "real life", Limonov follows the Russian "nobiliary" and expecially avant-garde traditions in his pursuit of more sophisticated artistry.



The author is deeply grateful to David Guaspari and Tilmann Reuther for their numerous helpful comments on the manuscript of this paper.


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Felix Dreizin // "Wiener Slawistischer Almanach", Band 22, 1988, Seiten 55-67
"Wiener Slawistischer Almanach", Band 22, 1988, Seiten 55-67
Herausgeber: Aage A. Hansen-Löve, Tilraann Reuther
© Gesellschaft zur Förderung slawistischer Studien