Mikhail Epstein

A Future After the Future

[on proto-formations in culture]

Conclusion to the book: Mikhail Epstein. After the Future: The Paradoxes of Postmodernism and Contemporary Russian, Amherst: The University of Massachusetts Press, 1995, pp.328-339.




The paradoxes of postmodernism, as presented in this book, shaped its two interconnected goals: first, to trace the postmodern horizons of contemporary Russian culture; and second, to delineate the movement of contemporary culture beyond the horizon of postmodernism itself.

As mentioned in the Foreword, the profound tendencies toward irony and complete reversal characteristic of Russian culture allow it to once embrace postmodernism and then reveal its limits in a single act of crowning and dethroning. In Russia, postmodernism is perceived as a parodic unmasking of centuries of logocentrism in Russian culture, of captivity to the word and the ideological principle. But this profound parody parodies itself as it gives rise to ever new enactments and unmaskings, whose ultimate victim turns out to be postmodernism itself.

While the first two parts of this book emphasize the postmodern tendencies of Russian culture, the last two indicate the possibilities for moving beyond the postmodern paradigm. Essayism is a trans-genre mode of writing, the lyrical museum is a trans-semiotic realm of substantiality, culturology is a theoretical emergence into the space of trans-culture, and, finally, continualism is a transdisciplinary approach in methodology. Common to all four of these "trans-" movements is the overcoming of contingent sign systems, of national and temporal limitations and of the splintering of culture into narrow disciplines. This does not entail a return to the pre-essayistic, pre-semiotic, pre-disciplinary or pre-cultural wholeness of myth, things, knowledge or nature as such; rather it is the building of a complex, self-reflexive whole beyond postmodernism's playful pluralism.

The Parts III and 1Y address the prospects of a new whole which is not exclusive, but presupposes a wealth of difference. Essayism, the lyrical museum, continualism and transculture are all experiments in the building of an anti-totalitarian totality which simultaneously includes the postmodern play of differences while it creates a realm that differs from and is beyond the sway of play itself. Play becomes impossible in a space where there is nothing but play, and for this reason play itself creates a sphere that it differentiates and protects from itself. Difference unfurls its omnipresence, creating something that differs from difference itself: a possibility of wholeness that we have indicated by the prefix "trans-" in space and will indicate later by the prefix "proto-" in time. Difference cannot be itself unless it presupposes that which differs from it, namely unity. The creation of that which differs from differing is the measure of maturity of difference itself. The postmodern principle of difference presupposes, to the extent of its realization, a new wholeness beyond variety in styles, genres, and cultures. As such new unities are constructed from the sphere of difference itself, postmodernism crosses over to the next phase of cultural movement. Pluralism of disciplines, semiotic codes, and cultures enters into a new, non-totalitarian whole, where difference acts in mature form, that is, by differing from itself. It no longer opposes itself to wholeness, but rather creates wholes from itself, from the free play of self-differentiation.

A multiplicity of genres and types of writing opens the prospects of essayism as an integral verbal expression; a multiplicity of verbal descriptions opens the prospects of approaching the "extra-verbal" singularity of a thing; a multiplicity of disciplines opens the prospects of overlapping methodologies, such as "transpoetics" or "translinguistics," so that any of them can be applied to each other's objects; a multiplicity of cultures opens the prospects of entering the space of transculture. The child's play of difference destroys idols by tearing them down to fragments and quotations; the mature play of difference hears the silence within speech, senses a thing amid its descriptions, and contemplates the purity of the future amid its failed projections.


* * *

The future is the least popular of all categories in contemporary theory in the humanities. It is almost considered shameful to speak about the future, as if it had sullied itself through collusion with "occupationists of the future," those utopianists and totalitarians who used force against the present in the future's name.

But now is precisely the time to admit that the future, after all, is not to blame. It deceived all of those who attempted to subdue it. Reaching beyond the horizon of all utopian proscriptions, it shines anew in all its purity. Now, after all the Utopias and anti-Utopias of this century, we obtain, perhaps for the first time in history, a chance to feel the full depth and deceptiveness of its purity. This is not the purity of a tabula rasa, where anything one wants may be written, and any grandiose project may be realized. It is rather the purity of an eraser that wipes the clear lines of projects off a chalkboard, transforming someone's plan into a vague blot: a fading pun or pastiche, the remnants of an evaporated outline. Before us opens an image of the future as a great irony that will never allow itself to be objectified and subjected to analysis.

Post-structuralist theories often employ "language" and the "unconscious" as representatives of the radical other. But these still possess a certain structure which can be deciphered in neuroses and metaphors. Only the future is a minus-structure, with its unmitigated meaningfulness in the absence of any definite meaning. In searching for something radically different, maximally non-transparent, we approach the future. It lacks transparency because it is open, and, although it is dark, it obscures nothing.

And then we must consider, why it is that the future's own proclivities--hiding itself, slipping away, evading nomination and manifestations of itself--have been displaced by postmodernism onto the past and present. The impossibility of origin has been revealed in the past, and the impossibility of presence has been revealed in the present, the impossibility of truth--everywhere. But all of these impossibilities are known to us from our interactions with the future.

Postmodernism is essentially a reaction to utopianism, the intellectual disease of the future that infected the latter half of the nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth. The future was thought to be definite, attainable and realizable; in other words, it was given the attributes of the past. Postmodernism, with its aversion to Utopias, inverted the signs and reached for the past, but in so doing, gave it the attributes of the future: indeterminateness, incomprehensibility, polysemy, and the ironic play of possibilities. The phases of time have been castled. But this postmodern replacement of the future by the past is in no way better than the avant-garde replacement of the past by the future. In revealing the indeterminateness of meaning in the classical texts of the past, deconstruction reveals itself to be the mirror image of avant-garde constructivism, which posited rigid and absolute meanings in an as yet unconstituted future.

The game of past and future played by postmodernism and avant-gardism is winding down without a winner. This is especially clear in Russia, where post-communism is rapidly moving into the past, on the very heels of communism. There is a need to go beyond the confines of both Utopia and its resonating parodies. The "post-communist epoch" can count only a few years to its name, having suddenly bogged down in the protoplasm of some new, unknown social system. We come out once again into the stage of a "pre-future," but this time, it is utterly unknown. The "communist future" remains in the past, but this only means that the future has been cleansed of yet another specter, or idol, and such cleansing, or demythologization, of time is the proper function of the future. At present, the future is again advancing on Russia, not with an exclamation mark this time, but rather with a question, to which there is not and cannot be a known answer.

Postmodernism announced an "end to time," but any end serves to open at least a crack in time for what is to come after and, thus, indicates the self-irony of finality which turns into yet another beginning. The state of beginning, or origination, is the irony of an end annulled by endlessness, or infinity. But it is as difficult to speak about infinity as it is to speak about the end: it is nowhere to be found except in positing a new beginning. One can only speak about that beginning which reveals infinity negatively, as the semblance and impossibility of finality. To conceive of "beginning" and "end," as necessarily symmetrical and correlative, is to distort the asymmetrical nature of time. Time belongs to the condition of uncompletedness, the preeminence of beginnings over ends. As an example, let us consider literary genres. The tragedy, comedy, novel and essay all have more or less definite historical beginnings, but their ends are not to be seen. They remain hidden beyond the horizon. All that we know about these genres is but the prototype of their potential future, their "proto-genre." A beginning thus understood as leading to an open future and manifesting possibilities for continuation and an impossibility of ending can be designated as "proto."

In affirming the category of uncompletedness, Bakhtin noted with regret,

What we foreground is the ready-made and finalized. Even in antiquity we single out what is ready-made and finalized, and not what has originated and is developing. We do not study literature's preliterary embryos. . .

Elsewhere, Bakhtin opposes two approaches--"completing" and "initiating," or in contemporary terminology, "post" and "proto"--to the question of

genre as a definite (essentially, petrified) whole, and /of/ embryonic genres (thematic and linguistic), with a still undeveloped compositional skeleton, so to speak, the "first signs" of a genre.

Moreover, it is not a matter of studying the first signs of already formed and well-known genres, but of studying originary phenomena as such, in the early stages of their formation, when the fate of the genre still belongs to the future, or rather, to one possible future.

The prefix "proto-," which I propose to use in designating the next, now ripened shift in post-postmodern culture, is a radical transition from finality to initiation as a mode of thinking. In subjecting everything to irony, postmodernism was insufficiently ironic in relation to itself, for only time alone is real irony, in that it never rests on its laurels. In ridding itself of time, postmodernism rids itself of the only possiblity for obtaining distance from itself, and, in the end, it becomes just as flat as the Utopias it once mocked. The only subject irony has not yet outdone is the future. I refer once again to Bakhtin, who wrote of the impossibility of completing history from within history, and of the future as a laughing disclosure of attempts to stop the unstoppable:

. . .Nothing conclusive has yet taken place in the world, the ultimate word of the world and about the world has not yet been spoken, the world is open and free, everything is still in the future and will always be in the future.

But this is, after all, also the purifying sense of ambivalent laughter.

Essentially, postmodernism, with its rejection of Utopias, was the last great Utopia, precisely because it situated itself after everything; it concluded everything with itself. Where Utopias once stood, striving towards the future, laying down a fast track for themselves through bloody revolutions, postmodernism established itself as an all-accepting, already realized Utopia. Its similarity with socialist realism is evident in that it proclaims itself as the all-embracing cultural space, the last receptacle of everything that ever unfolded and took shape within history. True, in its time, socialist realism proclaimed itself as something absolutely new, and for that very reason, was obliged to recognize its belonging to history. But postmodernism overcame even this ultimate weakness by announcing its own radically derivative and simulative nature and, therefore, its authentically unsurpassable finality. Postmodernism rejected Utopia, rejected a historicity which pushed off from the past in striving towards the future, but then it took over the place of Utopia itself. In a sense, postmodernism is more utopian than all previous Utopias as it falls in line with the mode of supra-history, not then and later, but here and now. Previous Utopias were more or less oriented toward the future, while postmodernism, in its repulsion of the future, is a Utopia of the eternal present, of endlessly playful self-repetition. It is the last Utopia, which, having frozen up in comprehensive, "infinite" finality, became "post-modernity."

In defining the further prospects of postmodernism and its transition to the "proto" model, it is well to pause on one moment in the history of this concept which often eludes the attention of researchers. In Lyotard's original projection, postmodernism appeared as an attempt to return from modernism's finalistic, teleological pretensions to an originary, unstable "embryonic state," evident in the initial modernist experiments.

A work can become modern only if it is first postmodern. Postmodernism thus understood is not modernism at its end but in the nascent state, and this state is constant. . . The postmodern would be that which, in the modern, puts forward the unpresentable in presentation itself. . ., that which searches for new presentations, not in order to enjoy them but in order to impart a stronger sense of the unpresentable. . . . The artist and the writer, then, are working without rules in order to formulate the rules of what will have been done. . . . Post modern would have to be understood according to the paradox of the future (post) anterior (modo)."

In 1979, Lyotard thought of postmodernism as a return to the sources of modernism, to the play of pure experimentation that preceeded utopian and totalitarian seriousness, with their claims of remaking the world.

But just five years later, Fredric Jameson advanced an entirely different postmodern orientation: towards completeness in the mode of the past, which, indeed, is more appropriate to the meaning of the prefix "post":

For with the collapse of the high-modernist ideology of style. . . the producers of culture have nowhere to turn but to the past: the imitation of dead styles, speech through all the masks and voices stored up in the imaginary museum of a now global culture.

In 1984, the same year that Lyotard's book was translated into English, Jameson noted in his preface the gap between Lyotard's understanding of the phenomenon and the reality of this cultural epoch:

This very commitment to the experimental and the new, however, determine an aesthetic that is far more closely related to the traditional ideologies of high modernism proper than to current postmodernisms. . . Thus, although he has polemically endorsed the slogan of a "postmodernism" and has been involved in the defence of some of its more controversial production, Lyotard is in reality quite unwilling to posit a postmodernist stage radically different from the period of high modernism. . . /Lyotard/ has characterized postmodernism, not as that which follows modernism and its particular legitimation crisis, but rather as a cyclical moment that returns before the emergence of ever new modernisms in the stricter sense. . . /H/is commitment to cultural and formal innovation still valorizes culture and its powers in much the same spirit in which the Western avant-garde has done so since the fin de siecle.

Who is right in this dispute? Obviously, the postmodernism known to us is closer to Jameson's characterization, but the subsequent evolution of postmodernism approaches the boundary of "what will have been done" described by Lyotard, and earlier, by Bakhtin. The idea of "the last," "the completed" is exhausted before our eyes. The very concept of "postmodernism" is beginning to sound more and more absurd. How long after modernism will we continue to use it as our privileged reference point? Is not there now also post-antiquity, post-renaissance, post-baroque, post-realism? And since the epoch immediately preceding us is post-modernism, haven't we already entered post-post-modernism, or even post-post-post. . .? Instead of such a proliferation of posts, I would suggest defining the current epoch in terms of "proto".

As its prefixes accumulate, this post-post-post . . . modernism reveals the properties of time within itself; once again it stands before the future, and in so doing, passes beyond its own limits. As more and more "post's" are layered atop one another, each of them becomes only a "proto," a predecessor of something that comes next. "Before the next" is a more appropriate definition of uncertainty than "after the last." If what we mean by postmodernism is the play of indeterminate meanings, why shouldn't we use the future as the model of such uncertainty rather than the already-determined past? The "not-yet" contains many possibilities absent in the "already."

Does this sound like a new kind of utopianism? Utopianism imposes a certainty on the future and presents it as an obligation and necessity rather than a possibility. The same was true of the futurist artists of the 1910s and twenties as well as the so-called "futurologists," whose specialty in the 1960s and 1970s was "scientific" prediction of the future, proceeding from deterministic concepts. Proto-, as it is emerging on the boundary of post-, is not proto-something , it is proto in itself, which, for the sake of playful convention, might be also called "proteism", incorporating a reference to the Greek god, Proteus, whose dominion is the seething sea and who personifies possibility in his polymorphousness. Utopianists have taught us to fear the future, represented as an inevitable paradise. In order to overcome utopianism, it is not enough to be anti-utopianist or even post-utopianist; one has to restore one's love of the future, not as a promised State, but as a state of promise, as expectation without determination.

Lyotard's formula, "what will have been done" assumes something finished in the future as a point of departure for further events, the supposition of a future after the future. His definition of postmodernism as the "future anterior," or a future located in the past, in relation to another, approaching future, might be shifted to reveal that we are not so much addressing this future in the past, as the one it preceeds.

The epoch that comes "after the future" does not simply abolish the future, but opens it anew. Only the future conceived as already attained and under control is abolished, and it is after just such a dead, objectified future--be it called communism, industrialism or avant-gardism--that we now find ourselves living. At the same time, the future is now being de-objectified. Here opens such a future as cannot be embodied and built, which always turns up "after" and, by its silence, dissolves the meanings of the preceding layers.

It seems that Jameson and Lyotard are both right, for only after our experience (and exhaustion) of Jameson's postmodern paradigm which is "turned to the past" can we elaborate Lyotard's paradigm of postmodernism as an emerging "nascence" without fear that this will send us back in time to repetitions of avant-garde and utopian delusions and disenchantments. Jameson's postmodernism, which, like pastiche, is consciously derivative and quotational, broke the ground for Lyotard's, with its new return to the "original after the derivative," the "nascent state," but this time, with the mediating experience of quotationalism.

The mode of "proto-discourse" is neither avant-garde self-expression nor postmodern quotationalism. Rather it is a kind of self-quotation by which an individual enters the process of self-differentiation, whereby his discourse is absolutely original and derivative at the same time. Such originality is not a personal pretension and not a form of aggression toward others, but a conscious inevitability: each is doomed to be first in saying something, and simultaneously, each is free to relate his utterance to a pre-existing source. As a result, I speak as if I were quoting myself. The distinction between me and the other passes through myself and can never be fixed rigorously and objectively. The other is located within me, and I speak in his name. This is a "derivative originality," in which originality itself is produced as a quotation from some possible source contained in the speaker's consciousness, but not equivalent to his own selfhood.

Dmitry Prigov, the conceptualist poet mentioned more than once in these pages, calls such indivisible combinations as derivativeness, or quotationalism, paired with originality a "shimmering aesthetic." The reader will never know in advance if the author is original or citational, sincere or parodic in his pronouncements because the degree of his self-identification is changing from line to line, from word to word.

In our times postmodernist consciousness is superseded by a strictly conceptual virtual distance of the author from the text. . . Taking the place of the conceptual, a shimmering relationship between the author and the text has developed, in which it is very hard to define (not only for the reader but for the author, too) the degree of sincerity in the immersion into the text and the purity and distance of the withdrawal from it. I.e., the fundamental content becomes the drama between the author and the text, his flickering between the text and a position outside of it."

Prigov finds "shimmering aesthetics" to be a new, advanced stage of conceptualism, even referring to it as "postconceptualism," since the parody and pastiche which are traditionally associated with conceptualism are enriched with a "new sincerity." This kind of sincerity is postconceptual in that it never clearly distinguishes itself from the simulation of sincerity. In other words, "shimmering aesthetics" presupposes a tension between the original and citational modes of expression. Early conceptualism was "hard," whereas later permutations have become "soft" since there has been a movement from a strict preoccupation with ideological codes and their alienating, ironic reproductions to a much more lyrical and authentic engagement of the author with the text. If previously, in "classic" conceptualism, any claim of sincerity was only a mask or a citation, now citation becomes a hidden, humble form of sincerity. Thus, a mode of "self-citation" arises where the authenticity of the text is neither asserted nor abolished but remains "shimmering."

This relocation of accents onto authenticity, sincerity, and innovation reflects a deep fracture in postmodern consciousness. Not long ago, it was thought that nothing could be said for the first time, but now it is clear that, on the contrary, nothing can be said that will not become new at the moment it is uttered. Even Borges' Pierre Menard, who copies out entire chapters of Don Quixote word for word, emerges not as a postmodern hero, but as one of the approaching epoch, when none can help but be primal, even in literally repeating another's text. The same text written in the twentieth century has a wholly different meaning than it had as written in the seventeenth. "Cervantes text and Menard's are verbally identical, but the second is almost infinitely richer." Newness manifests itself contrary to intention and accompanied by the consciousness of its own inevitability, and this is its profound distinction from avant-garde innovation, self-enraptured and aggressive. This is the cross of the new, rather than its banner. We cannot but be first and speak first, not because this is praise-worthy, but because it is unavoidable.

And so, even as it changes orientation from the past to the future and from repetition to the new, the approaching epoch takes on the experience of postmodernism, where newness is no longer a free ground for titanic whims but becomes a mechanism of the inevitable. In contrast to avant-garde and utopian projects, directed towards the future solely for the sake of its re-making, the time of "proto" points up the inevitability and uncertainty of the future, as a factor not unlike Freud's unconscious, Lacan's language, or Foucault's episteme. The future is truly "stepping up to us," as one says in Russian /nastupaet/, which means that we "fall back" before it, although we have no way of telling, who it is we fall back before /otstupaem/. The future lacks all substance; it is a mechanism of pure negativity, which nonetheless acquires positivity in us and through us. It is the ultimate horizon of all otherness; it is the most "other" we can ever encounter or experience: a language without grammar, a subconscious without dreams, pure nothingness, which inevitably becomes all, while remaining nothing again and again.

The very concept of "the other" undergoes a change. In the postmodern view, it conveyed a hint of reproductivity: if the "other" speaks in us, then there is nothing left but to repeat others. The property of "being other" was attributed to another, alien person, even though I might well be this "other" myself. But to be other means to be new, to differ from others and from oneself. It now seems strange that, for postmodernism, otherness or alterity entailed a postulate of unavoidable repetition (to be "like others"), rather than a postulate of unavoidable newness (to be "other").

This implies that culture repossesses all the things "forbidden" by the postmodern fashion: newness, history, metaphysics, and even Utopia. But these have lost the totalitarian pretensions that once made us suspect them of "master thinking," or barracks of the intellect. The future is not written down from utopian dictation, rather it wipes away rigid strokes and creates a proto-Utopia, one of many possible sketches of futuricity. The state of proto does not foretell the future, nor does it proscribe, although it does soften the present, giving any text the quality of a rough draft, of uncompletedness, and a certain rawness. The future emerges as a soft form of negativity, as a vagueness within any sign, or diffuseness of any meaning.

The traditional concept of proto itself changes its meaning. Formerly it was used to designate that which came before something already formed and known. When the Renaissance came to appear complete, as it receded into the past, only then could its early stages receive the name of proto-renaissance. Thus, from the standpoint of a prepared and realized future, the past was renamed and came to appear as a step leading to a pre-ordained ending. Such was the trick of determinism when it prescribed the past by means of its own future, thereby creating the illusion that the future is foreseen by the past.

I am speaking of a version of proto- that has nothing to do with determinism or teleology. It is not posed to the past from an already established future, nor does it define the future from the perspective of the past. Proto- is a new, non-coercive attitude toward the future, in the modality of "maybe," rather than of "must be" or "will be." So originality, after being killed off by postmodernism, is reborn as a project that does not assume its own realization, but lives on in the genre of "a project." Proto- is the epoch of ever-changing projects, whose realization becomes not a transfiguration of reality, but the simple fact of their proposal. So many mocked, forgotten and already impossible modes of consciousness embodied in utopian and metaphysical projects will discover their potential just as soon as they are understood precisely as potentials lacking any dictates of obligatory existence.

Contemporary Russian culture is defined less and less by its relation to the communist past. Rather, this is the proto- stage of some as yet unknown cultural formation, whose name, thus far, can only be guessed. Can there be a field of the humanities that aims to study proto-phenomena, a science of newly-uttered names? After all, at the moment of its emergence, we cannot say the proto-phenomenon of what this will turn out to be. Ancient and medieval tales of love were termed pre-novelistic, or proto-novelistic, only when the genre of the novel and its accompanying theory were well-formed. But how can we name the sustained piercing shriek with which poet Dmitry Prigov accompanies his recitiations of poetry, consisting otherwise, by half, of quotations from classical sources? How can we name the painstakingly hand-written tags artist Ilia Kabakov so abundantly attaches to his paintings albums, and installations? What are we to call these non-novels, non-paintings, and non-poems, which exist for the time being without a genre? Here is where we can avail ourselves of the designation "proto": "proto-shrieks" and "proto-inscriptions" do not suppose a ready-made terminology, since they themselves gradually overgrow into the terms for possible genres of the future.

Translated from Russian by Anesa Miller-Pogacar



M. M. Bakhtin, Speech Genres & Other Late Essays, trans. Vern W.McGee, ed. Caryl Emerson and Michael Holquist (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1986), 139.

M. M. Bakhtin, Literaturno-kriticheskie stat'i (Moscow: Khudozhestvennaia literatura, 1986), 513.

Mikhail Bakhtin, Problems of Dostoevsky's Poetics, ed. and trans. Caryl Emerson (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1984), 166.

Jean-Francois Lyotard, The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge (originally published in French in 1979), trans. Geoff Bennington and Brian Massumi (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1984), 79, 81.

Fredric Jameson, "Postmodernism, or The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism," New Left Review (Oxford: the Alden Press), June 1984 (146): 65.

Fredric Jameson, Foreword, to Jean-Francois Lyotard, The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge, xvi.

Dmitri Prigov, "What more is there to say," in: Kent Johnson and Stephen M. Ashby, eds., Third Wave. The New Russian Poetry (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1992), 102.

A major representative of "new sincerity" in contemporary Russian prose is Venedikt Erofeev (1938-1990), the author of the short novel Moskva - Petushki. For the analysis of "new sentimentality" and "counter-irony" in his works see my article "Posle karnavala, ili Vechnyi Venichka" (After the Carnival, or Eternal Venichka). Zolotoi vek [The Golden Age] (Moscow), 1993, No.4, pp. 84-92).

In Russian cinema, a manifestation of "new sincerity" can be found in the film of Dmitry Meskhiev, Over Dark Water (1992), which presents stereotypical situations from the lives of the generation of the sixties (the cult of male friendship, the courage to commit suicide, etc.) and thus can be perceived as a parody of the production of the directors of that time, such as Marlen Khutsiev. On the other hand, the parodic distance is lessened by a strong lyrical and nostalgic empathy which creates the field of "the shimmering aesthetic." One of the last utterances of the protagonist, who appears to his son after his death, is, "what is more beautiful than trivial effects?" And this is not only the ethical conclusion of his life, but also the aesthetic formula of "new sincerity." If "hard" conceptualism demonstrated the stereotypical character of emotion, then "soft" conceptualism, which transcends the postmodernist paradigm, consciously reveals the emotional power and authenticity of stereotypes.

Jorge Luis Borges, "Pierre Menard: Author of the Quixote," Labyrinths (New York: Modern Library, 1983), 42.

This, again, invokes Bakhtin's legacy, which, according to his well-known investigators, presupposes the inevitability of innovation. "Indeed, some of Bakhtin's models demonstrate that freedom is, paradoxically, inevitable: 'We live in freedom by necessity,' as W. H. Auden wrote." Gary Saul Morson and Caryl Emerson, Mikhail Bakhtin. Creation of a Prosaics (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1990), 38.

Russian culture is known for its special devotion to "futurocentrism," which is perhaps another form of "logocentrism" (the archetype of the "second coming" -- Logos arrives from the future). This utopian bias, however, has found a strong opposition in such "prophetic" Russian thinkers as Herzen, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Berdiaev who rejected "the sacrifice of the present for the sake of the future" as a sort of revolutionary idolatry. It is remarkable that their negation of future as a predictable and attainable reality helped to formulate the conception of future as negation. According to an outstanding Russian philosopher S.L.Frank (1877-1950), "We know about the future decisively nothing. The future is always a great x of our life - unknown, impenetrable mystery." S.L.Frank. Nepostizhimoe [Incomprehensible]. Paris, 1939, 35. This presupposes a new, algebraic rather than arithmetic approach to future as "unknown quality." In more detail on the Utopian and anti-Utopian conceptions of the future in Russian thought see George Kline "'Present', 'Past', and 'Future' as Categoreal Terms, and the 'Fallacy of the Actual Future'," Review of Metaphysics, vol.40 (1986), 215-235.



Mikhail Epstein's Virtual Library Catalog