GULAG in Russian and French Prose: Poetics of Corporeality

Tyumen State University Herald. Humanities Research. Humanitates


2017, Vol. 3. №3

GULAG in Russian and French Prose: Poetics of Corporeality

For citation: Gerber J., Ertner E. N. 2017. “GULAG in Russian and French Prose: Poetics of Corporeality”. Tyumen State University Herald. Humanities Research. Humanitates, vol. 3, no 3, pp.68-79. DOI: 10.21684/2411-197X-2017-3-3-68-79

About the authors:

Julie Gerber, Postgraduate Student, Assistant, Department of Russian and Foreign Literature, University of Tyumen;

Elena N. Ertner, Dr. Sci. (Philol.), Professor, The Russian and Foreign Literature Department, University of Tyumen;; ORCID: 0000-0003-1523-6561


The article regards the poetics of corporeality in “The Kolyma Tales” by V. Shalamov, “Oblivion” by S. Lebedev and “What a Beautiful Utopia!” by J. Rossi. The theme of the GULAG memories is considered in the comparative paradigm, on the crossroads of the Russian and French research traditions. The analytical object is the prose of three authors, biographically associated with the GULAG. The narrative structure of the works is studied through the opposition of documentary, fictional, and autobiographical prose. It appears that the authors depict the process of recollecting and memory reconstruction appealing to the body images. That is what we call “the poetics of corporeality”. Thereby, P. Barth wrote that “the body is nothing but a text”: it is the body, and not the mind, that is fundamental to postmodernism. J. Rossi is one of the rare French who, like V. Shalamov, was in the GULAG and wrote a work dedicated to this experience. The novel by S. Lebedev tells the story of a man whose grandfather was the head of the camp (autobiography). In their everyday concentration camp life, the characters of V. Shalamov and J. Rossi perceive the world through the prism of their own body, as they strive to protect their lifes, their bodies and thus to survive. In the novel by S. Lebedev, the main character faces complicated psychological problems, looking for a dangerous answer to his identity question. The body in his novel does not appear as such, but above all, it functions as a symbol of the changes, that occur in the mind, a tool of cognition. Thus we explore “the body as the text” and the process “text creation” in particular. The language of the “text” is also subjected to a thorough comparative analysis: we consider the lexical pecularities, functioning of the rhetorical means, grammatical and syntactical patterns. On the basis of the conducted research the author of the current paper idenifies Hunger and Cold as the basic structural dominants, forming the “poetics of experience” in the GULAG, makes the summary on the role of the body image and the GULAG space.


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