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Vasilenko S.

"New Amazons" (About the history of the first literary women's writing group. Post-Soviet time)

In 1988, a literary group of women writers "New Amazons" appeared in Russia. I dare say that this is the first group in Russia in its entire long history of women writers who have realized that they are women writers and that they are creating women's literature. 

The group's manifestos for the collections "Remembering No Evil" and "New Amazons", which the group released in 1990 and 1991, say: "Women's prose? What is it? female, isn't it better to follow the usual scale of assessments bad - good? Answering the questions of skeptics, including those of the opposite sex, we say quite affirmatively: there is women's prose. It does not exist as a whim of an emancipated consciousness, by all means trying to erect itself into a categorical imperative. It exists as an inevitability dictated by time and space." 

In the same manifestos, the genesis of women's prose is also traced: "... the Amazon never left Gogol's overcoat. Everyone left, but she did not." "This prose captures vast geographical territories, various social and genre spheres: from George Sand to Marguerite Yourcenar and Virginia Woolf, from Natalie Sarrot to Agatha Christie. We are not talking about the glorious national tradition - from Countess Rostopchina to Tatyana Tolstaya, between whose names Avdotya Panaeva, and Zinaida Gippius, and Olga Forsh, and Vera Panova, and Iya Grekova, and Lyudmila Petrushevskaya rightfully take their place.  

And further in the manifesto, an explanation is given: what is it - women's prose: "Women's prose exists - because there is a woman's world, different from the man's world. We do not intend to deny our gender at all, much less apologize for its "weaknesses." it is just as stupid and hopeless as to refuse heredity, historical soil and fate. One must preserve one's dignity, if only through belonging to a certain sex (or maybe, first of all, through it)."_cc781905-5cde-3194-bb3b -136bad5cf58d_

As we can see, in these manifestos of the "new Amazons" the ideas of radical feminism are quite consciously and definitely expressed (see Adrienne Reich's concept of female "otherness", the uniqueness of the female world and female culture, opposed to the settings of classical male consciousness, in her article "On the Birth of women: motherhood as experience and intuition" (1976)). 

In 1988, "perestroika" was gaining momentum, magazines were published in millions of copies, revealing forbidden literature to readers, the works of Solzhenitsyn, Shalamov, Voinovich, Andrey Platonov, representatives of the "other" unofficial literature, alternative to socialist realism, broke into the pages of magazines: Venedikt Erofeev, Viktor Erofeev, Evgeny Popov, Vyacheslav Pietsukh. But just as before, in the dead autumn time of stagnation, so now, in the spring time of change, no one has even heard of such a concept as feminism. As I now understand, the ideas of feminism kept us from seven constipations, fearing them more than the ideas of anti-communism, since they shook not only the social foundations, but the foundations of the foundations of the world order of our patriarchal country. Feminism was a term of abuse, it denoted some ugly, unnatural phenomena of Western life, which can only be spoken about in a whisper. The word "feminist" sounded like an insult. 

It is all the more interesting to understand how a group with such radical feminist ideas appeared in such an anti-feminist society? 

It all started like this. 

On one of the rainy days in May 1988 at the Central House of Writers at the first conference on ecology, I met prose writer Larisa Vaneeva. After the Moscow meeting of young writers, we did not see her for five years. Then, five years ago, she struck everyone with her radiant proud beauty, long Russian plait to the toes and her brilliant sharp prose. Now she was sitting somewhere on the side, embarrassed and as if afraid of something, drooping, without a braid, poorly dressed. I looked at her frightened, and I read the same fear in her eyes - I was her mirror image: the same drooping, tattered look, the same faded look. "What happened to you?" we asked each other at the same time. 

So what happened to us? What happened to me? 

Five years ago I graduated from the Literary Institute, graduated with honors, my institute story "For the Saiga" was published in the "Literary Study" and immediately brought me fame and even fame in literary circles, critics called it the best story of the year - it seemed literary and professional my future is secured. But after the institute, I faced quite persistent and powerful resistance. I was not hired in the editorial office of magazines; the chief editors, mostly men, looked around and said: "You are a young woman. Will you suddenly go on maternity leave? We understand you, but understand us!" I understood and went further and further, lower and lower. As a result, with an excellent diploma, which gave me the right to enter graduate school, but where I was not taken for the same reasons that I was a young woman and could suddenly give birth, I ended up at the very bottom of the social ladder: I got such an extravagant job as filling in winter, skating rinks in the yards for children. In terrible frosts, I stood with a hose in my hands, from which a jet was beating and composing another story. But that's not the point. We were fanatics of literature, fanatics of prose, for many of our generation the work of writing is sacred, it is almost like a religious service to the Word. And so it was possible to work anywhere and by anyone, as long as there was time and a little money for writing, for serving. But here surprises awaited me. The editors, where I took my stories, began to refuse me. The male editors told me: "This is woman's prose! Understand, we can't publish all these women's screams and snot!" Or: "You write about women. But your purely feminine problems are of no interest to anyone." Sometimes she just ran into rudeness: "You write as if you are forever pregnant!" Or: "We are not interested in female psychopathology." 

It was like bullying. This could lead to depression and madness. Because all these words were spoken to me not by strangers, but by my former classmates, with whom we had just studied at the Literary Institute at the same prose seminar, and they wrote worse, were C students, and always spoke very highly of my prose at these seminars , but, having received an authoritative place in the editorial office, they no longer spoke their own words, but generally accepted words: “A woman cannot write a full-fledged artistic thing. This has been proved by the world history of literature. All the names of women who have remained in the history of literature are exceptions. Exceptions and Tsvetaeva, and Akhmatova". 

Perestroika has already begun, and our men continued to pursue this policy of discrimination. Already  two or three female writers have made their way through, thanks not only to their talent, but also to their violent temperament, but these were precisely those exceptions that confirm the rule - according to the same male editors who are in this time even rallied in unwillingness to let any of the women on the pages. 

I fell into despair. If earlier, before perestroika, they didn’t publish me for reasons of censorship (and this seemed temporary), now they didn’t print me because I’m a woman (and this is forever). And I can't change my prose into masculine prose, I don't want to. So you need to stop writing? I even enrolled then in courses for screenwriters and directors to leave prose. 

... It was at this moment that I met Larisa Vaneeva. It turned out that all my problems (and I thought that I was the only one writing such prose, which is called a woman's) were her problems too. Just like me, she could not find a job in her specialty after the Literary Institute and worked as a watchman at a construction site. 

We sadly recalled talented literary institute girls (at the Literary Institute, where future poets, prose writers, critics, translators were trained, the spirit of the present, the spirit of truth, the spirit of beauty, the spirit of high literature always reigned, even in the years of stagnation, there were no groupings, writers shared not on right and left or men and women, but by principle - talented and mediocre): Galya Volodina, a student of Yuri Trifonov, works as a janitor, does not publish, Nina Sadur, an excellent playwright and prose writer, works as a cleaner in the theater, she is not published, Irina Polyanskaya is suing the editor who does not publish her book, which is in terms of publishing, the unpublished Valeria Narbikova is wandering somewhere, although all her friends in the underground party have been published, and more than once - because like men, somewhere in Perm, Nina Gorlanova is starving with four children, although she has several novels on her desk that publishers do not want to print, Elena Tarasova works as a watchman, whose story "Remembering No Evil" is also nowhere to be found. printed and written before the Literary Institute, made her a big name ...  

Going through the names of those writers with whom we studied, recalling their talented, nowhere published texts, we suddenly realized that we had become victims of male chauvinism, that there was a war going on, that our lives, our destinies, our prose - the work of our whole life, were trampled on by the ruthless male (as in war, no one was spared here, even the most talented ones) with a boot. 

Realizing that our further survival as writers depends only on us, on our joint efforts, that alone we cannot break through the wall of male prejudices and direct male confrontation, we then, that same evening, decided to take action: we decided to collect unpublished talented manuscripts yet unknown women writers and try to publish them in a collection of new women's prose. 

We decided to fight, not wait until we die one by one. Larisa Vaneeva then uttered a historic phrase: "I noticed that if women start working together, then their strength grows not in arithmetic, but in geometric progression." And it really was. 

Work, as they say, began to boil. We read a huge number of manuscripts brought to us by women writers yearning for publications. One day of the week, Larisa and I occupied a table in the literary cafe "Motley Hall" of the House of Writers, sat down, and women with their manuscripts came up to us that day. 

The spectacle for the rest of the (mostly male) part of the public was menacing. The stereotype of behavior in such a poetic cafe was different: usually one or two poetesses, flirting, sat surrounded by male writers, listening to their outpourings. At first, they tried to approach us as if they were ordinary women who came to a cafe to flirt, they tried to turn our incomprehensible women's company, engaged in business, into a company of pleasant ladies for entertainment, but meeting polite but firm refusal over and over again, they subdued. It was our first small, naive, in some ways even funny, but important victory in the struggle for independence. 

Quite quickly, all the women - the future authors of the collection - got to know each other, and then became friends: after all, we were all, as I said, originally from the Literary Institute. Maybe that's why there was no envy and rivalry, but on the contrary, a spirit of camaraderie and mutual assistance reigned: after all, we were nuns of the same order, which was called Russian Literature. 

The concept of the collection was gradually developed. 

With this collection, we wanted to announce ourselves as a fundamentally new group of writers - women writers, a group of young, thirty-year-old, educated, independently thinking, independent women writers writing new women's prose. 

With this collection, we wanted to prove that a writing woman in our time is not an exception to the rule, but a need of the time - time itself needs a writing and creating woman: the proof is that there are so many of us that we go as a group, not one by one. No time has given birth to so many female artists at once, so it needs us. 

We wanted to prove to male writers, male editors and just males that we exist and that we write just as well, and maybe even better than male writers. 

With this collection, we had to prove that women's prose is just as diverse and just as talented as men's. Therefore, the selection of works was extremely harsh and picky: the collection had to include works of all current trends: avant-garde, postmodernism, new realism, modernism, new sentimentalism, etc. 

With this collection, we had to prove that women's prose is a unique phenomenon, unlike anything else. We called it like this: "The great mute spoke." By the Great Mute, we meant a woman silent for millennia. The unique world of a woman, the world of her feelings, sensations, her worldview, her explanation of the world order, poured out on paper, already gave birth to a new direction - the direction of directions, called simply and capaciously - women's literature. 

It must be said here that we did not know then what feminism was, we did not know then that there was a huge women's movement in the world, we did not know that the world already had such a thing as women's literature. We reinvented the wheel thinking we were the first to invent it. We did everything with the enthusiasm of the pioneers. And therefore, if there were no women's movement, no feminism, no women's literature in the world, they would have been created anyway, we would have created them in Russia. 

After the release of the first collection "Remembering No Evil", we were very surprised when a flurry of proposals and invitations fell upon us from foreign women's publishing houses, women's societies, when Slavists from Western universities became interested in the new Russian women's prose, and we learned that, it turns out, in everything in the world already exists, everything for which we fought with such anguish, to which, after so many painful years of doubts and tears, we reached our minds: there is a women's movement, there is feminism, there is women's literature, which calls itself just like we do. they called her - female ...  

But I got ahead of myself. Then we knew nothing of this and acted by touch, intuitively. It took a long time to choose the name of the collection. Named after the title of the story of Elena Tarasova - "Remembering no evil." The group was called the New Amazons. On the one hand, we, like true women, did not remember evil to anyone: neither time, nor the men who kept us, like red maidens, locked up, away from readers for a good ten years. On the other hand, realizing male deceit, we were going to fight for our women's and literary rights and took such a clear and militant name for everyone - "New Amazons". 

For a long time they were looking for a publishing house (then they were still state-owned) that would publish the collection. While we were looking for and poking at different publishing houses, we borrowed an idea - collections of women's prose "Women's Logic" and "Clean Life" (published by "Sovremennik" and "Young Guard") were published. But they took it clumsily, senselessly: they simply collected the works of women under one cover and - not understanding why they did it, contradicting themselves in what they did - they wrote in the preface: "At some "below average" level, of course, there is a separation " female "and" male "prose" ("Clean Life"). 

We were looking for a publisher who would become our ally. We were looking for a female publisher. And found - in the publishing house "Moskovsky Rabochiy". At that time it was the most daring, most "perestroika" publishing house. By that time, it had published books by writers - representatives of the underground: Evgeny Popov, Viktor Erofeev, Vyacheslav Pietsukh and others. This bold publishing house undertook to publish our bold book. There were also brave women - head. edited by Surov and edited by Natalya Rylnikova, who were inspired by our idea - to make a book unlike any other, and became our allies. Together with them, we released the second collection "New Amazons", which included not only prose, but also poems by women, as well as a play by Nina Sadur. 

The first collection "Remembering No Evil" includes works by Larisa Vaneeva, Valeria Narbikova, Nina Sadur, Nina Gorlanova, Irina Polyanskaya, Svetlana Vasilenko, Svetlana Vasilyeva, Elena Tarasova, Natalia Korenevskaya and Galina Volodina. 

The second collection "New Amazons" includes works by both the above-named writers and other well-known and unknown writers and poetesses: Tatiana Tolstaya, Marina Paley, Tatiana Nabatnikova, Marina Vishnevetskaya, Nina Iskrenko, Evelina Rakitskaya, Lyudmila Abaeva, Irina Grivnina, Tatiana Morozova (who also designed the book as an artist). 

The group of "new Amazons" (not to be confused with the collection), which developed the concept of women's literature and new women's prose in particular, consisted of several people: prose writers Larisa Vaneeva, Svetlana Vasilenko, Valeria Narbikova, Irina Polyanskaya, Svetlana Vasilyeva, Nina Gorlanova, Elena Tarasova, prose writer and playwright Nina Sadur and poetess Nina Iskrenko. 

We were very different. Readers and fans of the prose of one of us hated the prose of the other. 

The prose of Valeria Narbikova (who made her debut in Yunost magazine with the novel The Balance of the Light of Day and Night Stars, and is represented in the collections with the novels Hell as Yes and Hell as Yes and Around the Ecolo) is undoubtedly avant-garde prose. She traces her genealogy not only and not so much from the modernists Joyce and Henry Miller (although their work was the first impetus for her prose), but from the great avant-garde artist of the beginning of the century Velimir Khlebnikov. The nature of their gift is one - word-creation. And at the same time, Narbikova's avant-gardism is extremely feminine, capricious, whimsical. Narbikova reminds me of a restless girl who is tirelessly ready to break words, unscrew their heads, arms and legs, like a doll, and screw others on, look at what they have inside. And at the same time, she also looks like Marie Curie, a female scientist who splits the atom of the word, trying to get from the word - that, almost nuclear, super-energy. Narbikova is looking for meaning not in the phrase, but in the word, in the atom of the word. And the word explodes in her hands... 

The prose of Larisa Vaneeva (in the collections she is represented by the story "Between Saturn and Uranus" and the novel "Anti-Sin") is the prose of a modernist. Her phrase, full of a mysterious shimmering meaning, now wanders through the labyrinths of the female subconscious, then flies away, but again through the labyrinths, now heavenly, into the metaphysical heights. Mysterious prose, the prose of the Beautiful Lady, who, as a symbol of the new faith of the coming century, was worshiped and expected by our first feminists - the Russian symbolists of the beginning of the century Vladimir Solovyov, Alexander Blok, Andrey Bely. A beautiful lady in the face of Vaneeva came and said... 

The prose and dramaturgy of Nina Sadur (the cycle of stories "Penetrated" and the play "Red Paradise") are based on folklore. But this is not the folklore collected in scientific expeditions, not learned in amateur ensembles, but folklore (superstitions, visions, conspiracies, lamentations, chants, legends) of the female nature itself, its inner strength and intuition, the earth itself, great-memory, the foremother of Nature and Man when the rocks part and human blood gushing out of them, as in the play "Red Paradise". 

Elena Tarasova is a representative of neo-naturalism (the stories "Remembering no evil" and "You learned to eat well, Adam"). The decaying, vile, stinking flesh of the heroine of her story "Remembering No Evil", described with grandiose naturalistic skill, can serve as a metaphor for the decaying ancient myth of a woman as a container of vices, a vessel of the devil, a myth that has haunted a woman for many centuries, but she does not remember evil... 

Irina Polyanskaya (the stories "Square", "Selva", "The Life of a Tree" and the story "Clean Zone") in her work reminds us of the good old sentimentalism. We know that sentimentality is a purely feminine trait, but the fact that even having been born in a closed zone where genetic experiments are performed on the living, simulating the conditions of a post-nuclear catastrophe, one can remain kind, beautiful, sublime, sentimental, we learned this only from Irina Polyanskaya, and we will call this new Russian sentimentalism. 

The mother of four children, Permian Nina Gorlanova, reacts in a completely different way to the approaching catastrophe, to the end of the world (“Penitential days, or in anticipation of the end of the world”). As it should be for a mother, her heroine, in whom Nina Gorlanova herself is guessed, which she does not hide, from morning to evening is engaged in looking for something to feed the children. These searches are documented in every detail, they are almost diary entries. And only menacingly in these weekdays, like a choir in ancient Greek tragedies, messages (also documentary) from the local newspaper burst in: soon the dam will break and the city will be flooded. There was a month, a week, three days, a day, a few hours before the disaster... Nina Gorlanova managed to combine the incompatible: a documentary narrative with all the details of the post-Soviet beggarly life suddenly turns into a tragedy, in anticipation of the end of the world..._cc781905-5cde-3194-bb3b -136bad5cf58d_

The end of the world is, apparently, a favorite topic of Russian writers. Tragedy is my favorite genre. Why? I'll tell you about myself. 

I was born on the Volga in a secret rocket city surrounded by barbed wire. My father was a military man and he could be exactly the person who, during the Caribbean crisis in 1962, during the confrontation between Khrushchev and Kennedy, which almost led to a nuclear war, would press the button and the world would be destroyed. Much later I asked him what they were doing, what were they thinking, sitting there in the bunker, in front of those buttons, before the end of the world? He thought a little and said: "We played preference." I expected something incredible, I expected some kind of revelation from a man who could destroy the world. It turned out to be so casual. Then I realized that yes, this is exactly how it should have been: before putting a bullet in the forehead of the world, they play - like Kuprin - in preference. It should have been so - this is the logic of the development of male aggressive military consciousness (where there is no difference between Soviet and American) until complete destruction. 

Women at that time saved us, children, taking us far into the steppe, away from the town, on which the first missile strike would have been delivered. 

Only one educator enthusiastically called out, telling us children: “You have had great happiness, children, you are nuclear hostages. We will die from the first missile strike, but we will be the first and only victims on our part. Then our missiles will destroy America in a matter of minutes and we, though already dead, will become heroes." 

In the dark, since it was impossible to kindle a fire and give a tip to the enemy, we rustled chocolate candy wrappers and ate, choking, chocolate and tangerines prepared for New Year's gifts, which were handed out to us in plastic bags - instead of dry rations. All night we sat in the steppe, waiting for death. I remembered the taste of waiting for death - sweet, cloying, chocolate, its smell - caustic tangerine peels and wormwood, to the ear it was a child's whispering, rustling, stirring, in appearance - a starry sky full of round bright stars, enlarged by tears through which we they watched him ... It was so scary. 

I dwelled on this scene of my childhood in detail, because I believe that the origins of my feminism are located here. That night, I fully understood and remembered: "Men (even my beloved dad) destroy the world, women save it." 

So our whole group of new Amazons, now scattered, tried to save this world with a word. We got something. After the release of the collections, women's prose was recognized. Women can publish freely in Russia, no one will tell them that a woman writer is an exception. 

The group broke up. Larisa Vaneeva went into religion, but writes Orthodox stories, Valeria Narbikova is actively working in literature, has already written her eighth novel, Irina Polyanskaya published two big novels in the Novy Mir magazine, Nina Gorlanova in 1996 entered the shortlist of Bookerskaya with her novel premiums. Written by Nina Sadur. I work a lot both in prose and in cinema. 

We have done our job, and now in silence we can save the world one by one. Nobody bothers us. If they interfere, we will gather together again. We have experience of joint struggle and work...

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