I just learned (via Lizok’s Bookshelf) of the death on Monday of Vasily Aksyonov (Василий Аксёнов) in Moscow at the age of 76. He was one of the leading writers of the shestidesyatniki, the generation of the ’60s that rejected official Soviet culture. He came to prominence with his 1961 novel Звёздный билет (“A ticket to the stars” or “A starry ticket”), “which seems to have been read by almost everyone and was bitterly attacked and vigorously defended in the Sovet press of the sixties”; it “deals with adolescent characters who think and talk in an idiom that instinctively rejects established formulas” (Edward J. Brown, Russian Literature since the Revolution, p. 359).
Among the young writers Aksyonov was probably the most resourceful in the use of language, no doubt the most fertile in stylistic innovation, and certainly the most original in his manipulation of plot and narrative viewpoint. He moved with each work farther away from realistic narrative in the direction of experimentation with the novel form…. The concept of “carnivalization” as developed by Bakhtin … clearly applies to what Aksyonov is doing, carnivalization of language especially. In the course of a linguistic bouleversement, nonstandard language overwhelms the standard and proper language…. Aksyonov’s language and that of his characters is as a rule an invented idiom, studded with what are known in Russia as “barbarisms,” that is, foreign words, usually American, along with scientific terminology, racy colloquial dialogue, and parodies of orthodox narrative idiom. Svirsky has pointed out that Aksyonov’s books are indispensable, moreover, to any linguist concerned with the rich vagaries of contemporary Soviet slang. (Brown, pp. 361-63.)
I have his Затоваренная бочкотара (Surplussed Barrelware) and Ожог (The Burn) in Russian, and the latter and The Island of Crimea in English, and I’m annoyed at myself for not having gotten around to any of them. I’ll try to remedy that shortly. (NY Times obituary by Sophia Kishkovsky here.)