The Distorted Images And Realities Of Andrei Bitov's Literary Photographs

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The Russian Review


Although Andrei Bitov’s best‐known exploration of photography remains “Pushkin’s Photograph (1799–2099),” in which a young Pushkinist travels into the past to capture the poet’s image on film, this motif in fact appears throughout many of the author’s major works. This study addresses the two conflicting stances regarding photography that Bitov develops across a variety of genres. On the one hand, the manner in which a photo attempts to freeze or distort reality according to a particular worldview deeply disturbs his narrators, both fictional and semi‐autobiographical. It becomes a tool for manipulation in texts such as “View of the Trojan Sky” from The Symmetry Teacher, Pushkin House, A Georgian Album, and Armenia Lessons. On the other hand, photography can preserve personal and cultural memory, as seen in works including Pushkin House and A Georgian Album, and offer alternative viewpoints that expand one’s knowledge (Birds, Man in the Landscape). An analysis of the understudied tensions between these two perspectives will better reveal how Bitov deploys his photographic trope in order to probe key themes such as identity, man’s relationship to history and other individuals, epistemological uncertainty, and the fluid connection between reality and simulation.