Rid Grachev. Source: Adamčik. Un eroe neorealista nella Russia sovietica, Pisa University Press, 2019.

Title: Adamchik

Author: Rid Grachev (1935-2004)

Years of writing: 1961-1962

Year of first publication: 1976

Periodical: “Chasy”, No. 2

Place of publication: Leningrad

In the autumn of 1960, like Adamchik, the hero of his short story, Rid Grachev started working in a mattress factory.  Indeed, this short story, one of Grachev’s most emblematic works, has a strong autobiographical component. Its themes are alienation, the need for change, miserable childhood and abandonment.
The main character is an adolescent who, in order to escape his existential pain, behaves illogically. The central theme is human isolation: all Adamchik’s attempts to create a dialogue with others fail and he finds himself hopelessly alone.
Adamchik is a ‘nobody’, a man lacking individuality. He constantly repeats “I don’t understand!”, expressing a total inability to comprehend the automated and alienating reality around him.
The povest’ is a neo-realist reinterpretation of the ‘little man’, a common trope in Russian literature. Adamchik is the embodiment of the moral disorientation that characterised young Soviets in the 1960s. Grachev’s prose is fragmentary and laconic, influenced by his past activity as a journalist.
Adamchik is divided into twelve chapters, each of which is presented as an independent fragment. In each chapter, the author breaks down individual scenes, so as to focus the reader’s attention on specific details or phenomena, as in a film.
Grotesque episodes, reinforced by metaphors and symbols, such as the mattress, connect characters and situations, which would otherwise be separate from one another. The story is built on several levels to favour vertical and horizontal intertextual connections between the episodes. The most obvious allusions to classical Russian literature are the references to A. S. Pushkin’s poem The Bronze Horseman (1833). There are also many references to Italian Neorealist cinema. Grachev was particularly inspired by Federico Fellini and Michelangelo Antonioni’s films, especially their modes of narration using dreams, memories, and inner monologues. Neorealism is evident both in Grachev’s definitions of types and places, and his rejection of traditional literary language in favour of popular modes of speaking and regional idiolects. He sues slang and colloquial expressions to convey a sense spontaneity.
Traditional linearity is disrupted in the story and in consequence also the representation of emotional and interpersonal relationships.
At the beginning of the 1960s, Rid Grachev was considered one of the rising stars of Leningrad’s literary scene both by his better well-known contemporaries such as Iosif Brodskii, Andrei Bitov and Sergei Dovlatov, and by authoritative writers and intellectuals of the older generation, such as Vera Panova and Gleb Semënov. However, his works did not manage to reach the public, due to a publishing system controlled by censorship and the Union of Writers. His only official publication came out in 1967 with the title Gde tvoi dom (Where is your home), which was greatly distorted by censorship.
Grachev invested great hopes in Adamchik. In 1962, the magazine “Neva” seemed to be interested in publishing the short story, but censorship prevented it. The story was eventually published for the first time in 1976, thanks to Boris Ivanov, who included it in the second issue of the samizdat magazine “Chasy”. A few years later, in 1980, it appeared in the Parisian tamizdat magazine “Ėkho” (№ 10), thanks to Vladimir Maramzin, who had been influenced by Grachev’s work, as had his fellow writers in the literary group Gorozhane.
In 1994, Adamchik was included in the collection Nichei brat (Nobody’s brother), published with a preface written by Iakov Gordin.
In 2013, almost all his works were published for the first time in Russia in two volumes, Pis’mo zalozhniku (Letter to a hostage) and Sochineniia (Compositions). The two volumes were released by the Zvezda publishing house under the direction of Andrei Ar’ev, thanks to the work of Boris Ivanov, Valeriia Kuz’mina and Boris Roginskii who recovered and edited the manuscripts.

Marta Capossela
[30th June 2021]

Translation by Marta Capossela

Gračëv R., Adamčik: un eroe neorealista nella Russia sovietica, a cura e con saggio introduttivo di M. Sabbatini; traduzione e postfazione di M. Capossela, Pisa, Pisa University Press, 2019.


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To cite this article:
Marta Capossela, Adamchik, in Voci libere in URSS. Letteratura, pensiero, arti indipendenti in Unione Sovietica e gli echi in Occidente (1953-1991), a cura di C. Pieralli, M. Sabbatini, Firenze University Press, Firenze 2021-, <vocilibereurss.fupress.net>.
eISBN 978-88-5518-463-2
© 2021 Author(s)
Content license: CC BY 4.0