O. B. ZASLAVSKIJ
OF PUSHKIN’S “A FRAGMENT”
(“DESPITE THE GREAT ADVANTAGES...”)
The prose A Fragment (“Despite the great advantages...”, 1830) appears under the rubric “Fragments and Outlines” in editions of Pushkin’s collected works, but this “fragment’s” textual and structural characteristics give us reason to doubt that it is an unfinished draft.
This text comprises two parts: the first part is a foreword to a non-existent story, and the second is an afterword to this foreword. Puškin himself titled the work A Fragment, and the date of composition is noted beneath the afterword.
The theme of A Fragment is the lack of respect in the readership for the litterateur’s rights to a private life and creative freedom. The interrupted narrative and the story that remains untold can be viewed as the exercising of this right to creative freedom: the readership is presented with a demonstrative absence of text, which absence is, on another level, itself an organic part of a complete literary whole. A Fragment uses negation to develop the theme of negation and ultimately negates itself.
In other works of this type, the fragmentariness of the text is thematized, which makes it possible to interpret it not only in terms of form, but also content. The result is an unfinished text which describes itself as finished.