ELKOST International Literary Agency

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Flying-Away Monakhov, 1987

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1992 State Award of the Russian Federation winner

Published by:  Estonia - Perioodika, 1978; Finland - Gummerus (1987); France - Seuil (1993), Albin Michel (2005); Germany - Volk und Welt  (1983), Fischer-Taschenbuch (1990); Netherlands - Bakker (1991); Sweden - Norstedts (1986).

 

The epigraph of Bitov's Flying-Away Monakhov, a "novel with ellipses" completed in the 1970s, is taken from Revelation: "But I have this against you: that you have abandoned the love you had at first" (2; 4). The five stories of the novel catalogue Bitov's hero's betrayals of the people he loves—his father, mother, wives, lovers. The betrayals manifest his having "abandoned the love [he] had at first"; personal loves are made in the image of love for God, but the hero is repeatedly unfaithful to them.

In Flying-Away Monakhov, Bitov uses the idea of image to indicate the discrepancy between the real and the ideal; the middle story is entitled 'The Image' (Obraz) and describes the crumbling of the hero's idealized image of his beloved.

The heroes' betrayals are part of man's betrayal of his own ideal image in the eyes of God. God made man in his image, and the perfect love is love for God; each person is an image projected by his creator-author and should love and be loved accordingly. In his later works, Bitov examines man's falling away from his Godly nature more directly, minimizing the realist grounding that had predominated in the stories written in the 1960s and 70s. The women whom Bitov's lover betrays are only emblematic; in his stories of the 1980s it becomes clear that the Flying-Away Monakhov is an image of something else.