The Western Rebirth of ‘lagernaya literatura’

Andrea Gullotta


This paper aims to study a phenomenon that, to date, has received scant attention: the rebirth of the literary genre lagernaya literatura (literature related to the theme of Soviet repression). This study analyzes it in the Anglo-Saxon context through two novels, Martin Amis' The House of Meetings and Travis Holland's The Archivist's Story.

After a brief introduction devoted to Russia's current controversial relationship with the memory of its tragic past within the literary field, the paper delves into the characteristics of the two texts, seen as an extension of a literary genre exhausted in its country of origin and reborn in the West.

The paper shows the correspondences between the two novels and the tradition of Russian lagernaya literatura, both at a thematic and at a stylistic level, and highlights the common characteristics and the differences, as well as the different narrative approaches of the two authors.


Gulag Literature; Travis Holland; Martin Amis; House of Meetings; The Archivist's Story; Soviet repression and literature

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Id., The house of meetings (2006), trad. it. La casa degli incontri, di G. Granato, Torino, Einaudi, 2008.

Applebaum, Anne, Gulag: a History, New York, Doubleday, 2003.

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Langbein Hermann, Uomini ad Auschwitz, Milano, Mursia, 1984.

Mallon, Thomas, “In the Shadow of the Gulag”, The Washington Post, 14 January 2007.

Manera, Livia, “L’archivista che ‘salvò’ Babel”, Corriere della Sera, 21 febbraio 2008.

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Valle, Roberto, Recensione a T. Holland, Storia di un archivista, L’Indice dei libri del mese, giugno 2008.



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