Among the authors are: Leo Tolstoy, Ivan Bunin, Fedor Sologub, Maxim Gorki, Isaak Babel, Vladimir Nabokov, Mikhail Bulgakov, Daniil Kharms, Varlaam Shalamov, Alexander Solshenitzyn, Yuri Mamleev, Eduard Limonov, Viktor Erofeev, Ludmila Petrushevskaya, Tatjana Tolstaya, Viktor Pelevin, Mikhail Yelisarov, Yulia Kissina
From the Foreword of Vladimir Sorokin: “In the 20th century the human body appeared in Russian literature. It began to smell, eat, drink, copulate and answer the call of nature. The vast majority of characters in our country's fiction in the 19th century were walking ideas, metaphysical clouds. Due to the heightened concentration of ideas in the Russian novel, there was almost no room left for flesh. It hid in dark Gogolian corners, caught up on its sleep in Turgenevian root cellars and took cover in Dostoyevskian basements. Flesh got shooed away and trampled underfoot, it was ordered to beat it so as not to insult the lofty world of ideas with its appearance. The armpits of Natasha Rostova were incapable of smelling sweaty, even on a July day at noon. Naked Rogozhin never straddled naked Nastasya Filippovna, grunting and moaning in the act of love. Anna Karenina was ontologically unable to squeeze a pimple on Vronsky's neck. Blue-eyed Alyosha Karamazov never stepped away to the monastery toilet.
Everything which was bodily, wild and—Russian-style—agonizingly inexpressible, which swelled and proliferated in the nineteenth century, burst out and splattered onto the page only during the century of the «great experiment» which consumed and ground up millions of human destinies and bodies.
After their victory in Russia, the Bolsheviks, those junkies addicted to absolute power over millions of bodies, exerted control over the world of literature as well. But the violent attempt at «Communist reeducation» led only to the robotization of the Body, to the loss of its liveliness and spontaneity and that unpredictability so crucial to full-fledged literature. The socialist-realist heroes had, by the nineteen-fifties, turned into concrete monuments, memorials to the Soviet era. The only authors to survive literarily were those who placed no limits on the bodily freedom of their heroes: Bulgakov, Platonov, Zoshchenko, Shalamov and Shukshin.
It took a long time for the body of Russian literature to thaw out after the harshness of Communist blizzards and cold spells. It lay forgotten in the midst of a Russian field overgrown with weeds, surrounded by the corpses of Soviet writers. It was retrieved by the literary figures of the underground. In the schizophrenic expanses of Yuri Mamleev, the Body learned to think freely and unpredictably, and in the works of Venedikt Erofeev and Evgeny Popov, to drink, eat and shimmy. Tatiana Tolstaya restored to it the powers of speech, as Ludmila Petrushevskaya did its ancestral memory. Andrei Sinyavsky schooled the Body in ironic self-deprecation, Eduard Limonov and Viktor Erofeev in how to love other bodies and itself profoundly, with trepidation and selflessness, and Solzhenitsyn taught it to be godfearing.
Empires crumbled, the rumble of wars and revolutions died away, and millions of slain bodies crossed over into nothingness. The fearsome century wrought many changes in Russian literature. But most importantly, it gave it the chance to sense itself bodily. It is this keen and elusive feeling of bodily self-penetration in our great literature which I have attempted to preserve as I assembled this anthology.”