Borderland


The Limits of Permissible

”If the doors of perception were cleansed, every thing would appear to man as it is: infinite”. This is the famous citation from William Blake, a great English poet; however, not all the people are curious about the continuation: “For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro' narrow chinks of his cavern”.

Life marks itself with borders at the very base of it — tender membranes run through the newly born protein entities, dividing the forming cells, and the structure of biological organisms becomes more and more complex. Manifestation of the life of a complex living being begins with division of a fertilized egg, which continues and continues. In the context of art, borders celebrate the Brazilian carnival of life, originating from one point and multiplying geometrically to form new complex systems.

That means, borders are an important and essential part of biological and supra-biological existence, the inner and outer structure of an organism, society and their individual components. Sometimes, it is difficult to decide where they are and where they should be.

I have recently faced the necessity of solving such a complicated task in my work of an editor. Our publishing house has recently received a manuscript by Ruslan Baisayev, an author who has already manifested himself in literature. The text is written by a talented man, with attention to detail and demonstrating substantial knowledge of the post-Soviet reality.

The novelist vividly discloses the mystery of a child’s loneliness and sadist treatment of a daughter by her mother. Speaking in medical terms, everything is described accurately, realistically and objectively. A domineering mother, suppressing her daughter’s sensuality, the daughter’s mental and sexual problems and further gradual aggravation of events — everything is shown very vividly and in full conformity with the modern scientific concepts. The point is that the key scenes on which the entire novel is based can be actually dubbed as child pornography. Here a question arises: can things like that be described even if they seem to serve the artistic purpose? This question has been discussed since Lolita, and yet…

Where is the marker of a genius or a talent which allows a writer to touch upon such subjects? And is it correct or moral, even when we recognize an author’s rights to self-expression and investigation of the depths of the human psyche, to publish such works? Perhaps, here the level of a reader’s preparedness matters — it may happen so, that, without thinking about complicated psychological problems, a rustic reader will buy the book exactly as child porn. Perhaps an editor should act cleverly and delete such scenes. As a matter of fact, this will not resolve the problem, as the scenes are key points. Even if there are gaps instead of the scenes, the reader will understand what it was but it will look rather absurd, like as if we covered Courbet’s painting L’ Origine du monde” with adhesive tape. By the way, this is the impression produced by some literary thrillers, in which children are depicted as victims and in which the reader is provided all kinds of details before the crime scenes come. These details may be viewed as camouflaged child pornography disguised as investigation of a crime. Again, much depends on who will take the book and start reading it (in the worst scenario, in whose sweaty hands it will get). Recently a similar discussion has been raised in the social networks about the flash mob “I am not scared to say”, which deals with the experienced sexual abuse. Do we need these megatons of nauseating details? Yes, on the one hand, a victim has a possibility of speaking out and getting the burden off her shoulders, and on the other hand, this is a paradise world for the lovers of such details. New research papers devoted to the results of these revelations are already being published. The limits of what is permitted are becoming vague and are undergoing mutation.

In my opinion, the most important thing here is not to lose the moment when normal cell division turns into proliferative growth of a tumor. We are facing a double hazard here: on the one hand, there is a hazard of conventional legalization of pathology and abuse in literature and in the cinema; on the other hand, we may get lost in the bog of bourgeois philistine morale, which proclaims secrecy and ‘non-disclosure’, and that only aggravates the situation in which pathologies blossom.
© Yelena Mordovina

Yelena Mordovina


A prose writer, a translator, an editor of the Kayala Publishing House

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"Kayala" Publishing House

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