Andrey Bely: The Journey to the Crucifixion as an Aspect of Serial Autofiction
This article is an attempt to discern links between Bely’s autobiographical disposition and his narrative devices. My approach is based on applying two transformist theories of autobiography, namely, the American theory of serial autobiography and the French theory of autofiction. The emphasis of the former theory is on the serial mode of self-representation (multiple versions of self-description and of a life-story in a series of texts); the latter one is focused on the mix of autobiographical and fictional elements with writing techniques. In my research these two theories are combined as a single theory of serial autofiction.
My article is an exploration of what I believe to be a major autofictional leitmotif of Bely’s prosaic series – the motif of a protagonist’s Christ-like life-journey towards a quasi-crucifixion. I look at the variations of a protagonist’s journey to a crucifixion in Petersburg, Kotik Letaev, The Christened Chinaman, and Moscow Trilogy. The autofictional invariant of a Christ-like life-journey is created through its formal equivalent, that is Bely’s narrative invariant, namely, inverse repetition, or rehearsal. I develop a new concept of inverse repetition in order to define Bely’s strategy of repetition of motifs that unfold not from but towards a point of reference, which is situated at the end and not at the beginning of a text. Thus, the chains of motifs function as sequences of rehearsals that are supposed to prepare and culminate in a performance of a denouement. However, in each of the novels the long-awaited and rehearsed performance of a protagonist’s crucifixion is sabotaged and indefinitely delayed.