“They Don’t Choose the Times...”: an Essay on Alexander Kushner’s Doxa and Paradoxes (Idiomatics and Ideology)

2023. № 3, 102-116

Pavel Uspenskij, University for Foreigners of Siena (Italy, Siena), paveluspenskij@gmail.com


The article is focused on Alexander Kushner’s poem “They don’t Choose the Times...”. We analyze the whole text and its fi rst lines “They don’t choose the times, / They live and die in them”, which have been fixed in the Russian proverbial and quotation fund. Based on the linguistic analysis of the text, in particular, on the idiomatic approach, I attempt to deconstruct the poem. As it is shown, the key maxim oscillates between universal and situational meaning. The text of the poem realizes a rhetorical system of arguments to accept modernity and turns the paradoxical maxim into a rhetorical argument. The fi nal stanza deserves special attention. The phrase from the criminal procedural discourse “to take fi ngerprints” plays the main role in it. The use of this fi gure of speech betrays the subject’s specifi c understanding of history and modernity. The system of text arguments appears to be disordered and contradictory. In my opinion, it can be explained by the traumatic nature of the Stalin’s era. The subject convinces to accept modernity not an imaginary interlocutor (a reader) as of himself, because he feels the danger of political persecution for having different views. The linguistic analysis of the poem “They don’t Choose the Times...” allows us to attribute this text to the offi cial Soviet poetry only judging by immanent features.

For citation:

Uspenskij P. “They don’t Choose the Times...”: an Essay on Alexander
Kushner’s Doxa and Paradoxes (Idiomatics and Ideology). Russian
Speech = Russkaya Rech’. 2023. No. 3. Pp. 102–116.