Tales of the world episode 50 – From punk to kitsch: Pussy Riot in the US

What happens when the tragic in a cultural context meets the influences of a rather different approach to life…

In earlier in editions of Tales of the world, I touched on the metaphorical condition of women in Russia, noting that from the unknown heroines of darkest history, through Ana Karenina  and down to Ana Politkovskaïa the political destiny of Russian women seemed irreversibly tragic. I even recall wondering what would happen to the Pussy Riot girls, so strong in their denunciation of the Russian authoritarian establishment.  

… here comes a twist, for this international affairs chronicle with a twist. Despite copious aspersions with imprecations and holy water …the Pussy Riot girls did not rot in a Russian jail, but were recently freed in a whimsical attempt by a seemingly strong but really floundering Russian autocrat to show in how many ways he can prevail. As one twist of fate did not seem to be sufficient, another one appeared soon enough: the Pussy Riot members went to America. From the damp and cold cells of Siberian prisons, thrown in the blinding light of US television shows and star studded concerts! All this while fighting for human rights  and denouncing abuses.

A plot twist that not even Tolstoï or Dostoyevski would have dared introduce in the lives of their characters! Probably for fear of contemplating what the encounter between the tragedy of the Slavic spirit and the travesty of American parody can give birth to.  

Imagine, instead of throwing herself under a train, Ana Karenina goes to New York, and starts writing for the courier de coeur of an up and coming east coast magazine: “dear heartbroken, social conventions are so passé, these days, embrace your destiny in the new world and go protest for the female vote, I know I will”. Signed, Anna K. Better yet, Nastasya Filipovna, the tragic heroine in Dostoyevsky’s Idiot, instead of dieing consumed by the malevolent passions she stirs in men and her own bitterness and savagery, takes forth against a sea of troubles and goes really really far east, crosses the Bering straight aboard a freight and pursues with her conquest of the Western Coast of the United States…

A twist or two in a story makes for a good read, it keeps the reader on the edge, eager to see what extraordinary highs and lows life throws at the characters…put in a twist too many in a too obvious direction, and the plot becomes twisted…or kitsch.  Then again, it is Milan Kundera, a Slavic language author writing for Western sensibilities that put it best: Kitsch is the inability to admit that shit exists. How’s that for a roaring punk motto…