This article argues that there are two major strains of transnationalism in works by Russian-speaking North American writers David Bezmozgis, Ellen Litman, and Gary Shteyngart. Bezmozgis and Litman focus on localism, and their short story collections Natasha (2003) and The Last Chicken in America: A Novel in Stories (2007) are set in specific North American immigrant neighborhoods: Bathurst Street and Steeles Avenue in Toronto for Natasha, and the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh in Little Chicken. These stories describe the deterritorialization of Russian culture and the spread of Russian corruption abroad through a focus on immigrants and their visitors. Bezmozgis’s and Litman’s characters are prevented from going back to former Soviet Republics by their intense dislike of the moral corruption in their former homeland. In Absurdistan (2006), by contrast, Shteyngart depicts a transnational, multicultural, and morally ambivalent world in which his protagonists travel between Russia and the United States, bringing US American culture and consumerist artifacts to Russia.
Transnationalism in Contemporary Post-Soviet North American Literature
Anna Katsnelson is adjunct assistant professor at the Harriman Institute at Columbia University. She coedited, with David Shneer, a special issue of Journal of East European Jewish Affairs on “The New Wave of Russian-Jewish-American Culture” (2017) and recently published an article on Anya Ulinich’s work (“Lena Finkle’s Magic Arc: Hybrid Influences in the Russian American Graphic Novel”).
Anna Katsnelson; Transnationalism in Contemporary Post-Soviet North American Literature. Twentieth-Century Literature 1 March 2019; 65 (1-2): 145–166. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/0041462X-7378850
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