A book of love and devotion: a communist father’s image reconstruction in the daughter’s memoirs

Natalia Gramatchikova, Lidia Yenina

Abstract


The article is based on S. B. Navarskaya’s documentary story The Life of a Soviet Family between the 1930s and 1940s. Stalda Borisovna Navarskaya (1932–2013) calls her narrative a genealogy as it combines seven autobiographies (including her own one and that of her husband).This previously unstudied text came to being because of the writer’s need to tell her grandchildren and great-grandchildren about the hard and decent life of their ancestors and was published on the Calameo website shortly before the author of the genealogy deceased. The narration of S. B. Navarskaya, a famous Uralmash engineer and constructor, head of the constructor group for the designing and introduction of the Malyutka small-sized washing-machine only becomes possible and necessary at the time when the bitter lot of the family (exiles, arrests, deaths of starvation, etc.) may become public and perceived as other heroic texts.

The central figure of S. Navarskaya’s family and personal history is her father, Boris Stepanov, and the chapter about him is subtitled A Life of a Communist. The article considers an intertwining of a number of discourses that are part of the autobiographic narrative of her father: they are excerpts of her father’s diary and his poems chosen by Navarskaya, a number of documents of the epoch (letters, orders, statements, certificates, deeds, etc.), his daughter’s frank and sharp language representing her father as a real communist, an ideal father and husband, and also concealed and more often than not unconscious means enabling Navarskaya to keep an idealized image of her own father. Among them is the tabooed reflection of well-known historical events, the interiorization of her father’s view of events, etc. The article describes the cultural code of the text introduced into the family history and her daughter’s narrative by Navarskaya’s mother: the events are commented on by means of poetic quotations and contain allusions to literary works.

The author analyzes the combination of the writer’s father’s words about himself and people like him and the peculiarities of his transformation in the biographic narrative authored by his daughter. For Navarskaya the text about her father becomes one about herself too, and may be regarded as the work of an autobiographic memory that lasts as long as its owner’s life. The contrast of two types of narrative – that of a father about himself and that of his daughter about him - turn out to be a powerful deconstructing mechanism of the text that tells more than the author initially meant. The text is complete compositionally, as it opens with a pathetic overture for a grave mourning where the possibility of a catharsis is inherently opposed to loyalty and is thus rejected for the sake of the father’s memory as understood by the author of the genealogy.


Keywords


family history; communist; scenario; naive author; Berezovo; Kazym rebellion.

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15826/qr.2015.4.128

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