“The Stone Master”: On the Invisibility of Women’s Writing from the Soviet Ukrainian Periphery
AbstractUntil the last decade of the Soviet state’s existence, only very few Ukrainian women writers achieved literary fame. This study sheds new light on Soviet Ukrainian political, historical, and social contexts that contributed to the invisibility of Ukrainian women’s writing by examining the case of Lviv-based author Nina Bichuia (b. 1937). Bichuia’s career and the publication history of her works illustrate several characteristics and paradoxes of Soviet literary politics concerning the Soviet periphery—i.e., the non-Russian republics, such as Ukraine. In particular, this article analyzes the differences in permissible literary expression between Moscow the metropole, Kyiv, the centre of the Ukrainian periphery, and Lviv, the Western Ukrainian periphery. It considers gender politics and biases in the Soviet Ukrainian literary establishment and the strictures of the Soviet “Friendship of Peoples” discourse, which had a provincializing effect on Ukrainian literary production and the tastes of the reading public. The article offers a close reading of Bichuia’s last short story, “Kaminnyi hospodar” (“The Stone Master,” 1990), which reflects this author’s “final word” on the Soviet environment for writing literature in the Western Ukrainian periphery. By analyzing Bichuia’s use of important literary intertexts and employing recent theorizations about Soviet state discourse, I demonstrate how “The Stone Master” imaginatively represents and criticizes the regime of discursive monopoly established by the Soviet system. This regime is shown to force a Ukrainian female writer into silence, which can be strategic, but cannot result in greater literary visibility.
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