I finally added Slawkenbergius’s Tales to the sidebar because there’s just too much interesting stuff and I get tired of looking through my bookmarks for it. Greg Afinogenov thinks and writes about all sorts of things, many of which intersect with my own interests, to the point that I’m willing to overlook his addiction to postmodernism. But, as he explains in this typically thought-provoking post, “Image without substance has been the defining feature of Russian life: we have ‘democracy’ without democracy, ‘communism’ without communism, ‘progress’ without progress. … The uncertain relationship between [reality and image] was the very prima materia of Soviet social existence.” And he links to a long and fascinating essay by Mikhail Epstein on “The Origins and Meaning of Russian Postmodernism”; in brief, his thesis is: “The development of Russian modernism was artificially halted in the thirties, while in the West it continued smoothly up to the sixties. This accounts for the existence of a single postmodernism in the West, while two separate postmodernisms arose in Soviet culture, one in the thirties and another in the seventies.” But the fun is in the details.


  1. Thanks, I’m honored! My addiction to postmodernism is, to paraphrase Lenin, an infantile disorder; I’m sure I’ll be writing Bloomian rants in no time.

  2. A.J.P. Crown says

    Well why has it taken you so long to add it, Language? Is it because of the po-mo? Conrad’s actually met Slawkenburgius. It was in Paris, where you would imagine such a meeting taking place. Conrad wrote about it.

  3. Well, if they’d invited me to the café and bought me a drink, it wouldn’t have taken so long, would it?

  4. It would have been a long trip for you, but well worth it for us. Next time. . .

  5. Richard Crawford says

    Whenever I see the word “postmodern”, I reach for my metanarrative. I prepared a thesis on the subject for a doctorate at Bristol, but decided the word itselff was an empty sign, rather like a slogan on a Wham!! t-shirt.

    When I finally laid down my arms after two years, my supervisor confessed she didn’t understand anything I had written about. I suspect it was all an antiMarxist con by French academics trying to make their way in the world.

    Less “L’enfer c’est les huîtres”, than – Alice in Wonderland -like “L’enfer, c’est les palourdes.”

  6. “L’enfer c’est les huîtres”

    That’s very funny and I’ll try to remember it, but I don’t get the cartoon Stu linked — where are the oysters?

  7. Also, I see palourde is ultimately from Greek πέλωρ ‘portent, prodigy, monster,’ which is fun.

  8. I take the cartoon to be an outward and visible embodiment of what you think when you read “L’enfer c’est les huîtres”, namely WTF? No oysters anywhere.

  9. As a hater of seafood, I take it literally.

  10. To the Americans the world is your oyster. To the French l’enfer c’est les huîtres. It follows that life in America is hell to the French.

  11. David Marjanović says
  12. Those are pretty durn expensive oysters at 300 euros a pop.

  13. Lars Mathiesen (he/him/his) says

    I assume that les huîtres and les autres aren’t exactly homonyms (yet), but are they really close enough for the pun to work? And no, I don’t see any oysters in that drawing either, nor other people. (Is that a Trojan Duck to let the human get into the Oyster Fortress?)

  14. I assume that les huîtres and les autres aren’t exactly homonyms (yet), but are they really close enough for the pun to work?

    Well, yes. Puns don’t require near-identity, just recognizable similarity.

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