Narrative Reliability in Selected Works by Bulgakov, Nabokov, and Tertz
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This work examines the use of ambiguous or obfuscating narrative devices in 3 works by 20th century Russian authors: A Dead Man’s Memoir, by Mikhail Bulgakov, The Eye by Vladimir Nabokov, and You and I, by Abram Tertz. Bulgakov relies on diabolical imagery as well as characters that are by and large caricatures of how any decent person would behave. Nabokov employs several modernist tropes including skillful use of estrangement, as well as a bland tone towards occurrences that ordinary people would find miraculous. Tertz plays on the notion of a double identity by psychically linking two polar extremes until they are nearly unable to tell themselves apart from one another, causing one to crack and kill himself, thus restoring his observer to a more enlightened state. Each work uses the idea of narrative ambiguity and unreliability to demonstrate the incommunicability of one’s artistic vision in its purest, platonic form.