“I’m a Beggar in This Frightful New World”: Between Disfiguring and Fashioning of Self in Olesha’s Fictional Autobiography


Iurii Olesha
Russian literature
character development


This article anayses the trajectory of Iurii Olesha’s reinvention of the self through his autobiographical hero in the novel Zavist' [Envy, 1927] and two plays, Zagovor chuvstv [The Conspiracy of Feelings, 1929] and Nishchii ili smert' Zanda [The Beggar, or the Death of Zand, 1930–32]. This essay examines the playwright-protagonist relationship in the context of Olesha’s stylistic evolution of the beggar character in drama who serves as authorial alter ego, tracing the process of how “one’s cultural self is both fashioned and disfigured in the process of self-conscious writing” (Boym 1991: 2). By making his autobiographical character Nikolai Kavalerov a parody of an artist, deeply flawed in moral sense, Olesha adds a layer of identity to his artistic persona and begins his selfmyth of degradation. Through his character, the author enters a Nietzschean cycle of regeneration, finding creation in destruction and rebirth in death.


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