Nostalgia re-written. Boris Akunin's Fandorin project and the detective (re-)discovery of Empire
Item statusRestricted Access
Embargo end date15/07/2021
Since his rise to fame in 1998, Boris Akunin has become a household name on the post-Soviet book market. Temporarily, he also became one of the leading voices in Russia’s liberal opposition movement to the Putin regime. Occupying a place on the border between fiction and non-fiction, Akunin’s oeuvre challenges genre classifications along with established perceptions of cultural authority in Russia. Akunin’s first and most successful project is the best-selling Fandorin series, a series of historical detective novels that are set in the late Imperial era. The choice of historical detective fiction - a genre that is both popular and interactive at the same time – allowed Akunin to involve a broad, middle-brow readership in a critical problematisation of Empire whilst updating crime fiction for a specific post-Soviet usability. In my thesis, I approach the Fandorin project as a double detective journey that consists of two narrative strands: one righting the historical narrative about Empire, the other using this reassessment to counteract the widespread trends of nostalgia and cynicism in contemporary post-Soviet culture. In my reading, these two strands simultaneously embody the novelty of Akunin’s self-proclaimed ‘new detective novel’: a revivification of the socio-political function of traditional crime fiction, aimed at Russia’s post-Soviet nostalgia discourse, and a rediscovery of original intelligentsia values, accompanied by a critical investigation of the intelligentsia’s ill-fated nostalgia for their own, insufficiently reassessed past. Consequently, I present the Fandorin project as a multi-tome counternarrative to the regnant nostalgic remembering for Empire within the wider post-Soviet nostalgia debate.