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The temptation of the reader: the search for meaning in Boris Akunin's Pelagia Trilogy

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Abstract

This article discusses the games that Boris Akunin's Pelagia trilogy (2000–03) plays with the reader's attempts at interpretation and meaning-making. Most critics agree that detective fiction in this ‘whodunnit’ mode is a genre that invites the active participation of its reader in order to uncover a hidden truth. What Akunin's trilogy does, however, is simultaneously to invite this participation and playfully frustrate it by thwarting or disrupting the reader's various attempts at solving its puzzles. This article considers the ludic elements of Akunin's trilogy in three different, though related, interpretive spheres: historical reference; intertextual and metatextual reference; and the search for faith. It concludes that the Pelagia trilogy is best viewed as an example of postmodernist metaphysical detective fiction, which poses provocative questions about the nature of knowledge, the status of meaning, as well as the act of reading.
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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)29-56
Number of pages28
JournalSlavonic and East European Review
Volume94
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2016

    Research areas

  • Novels, Setting, Literary criticism, Narratives, Narrators, Intertextuality, Literary postmodernism, Caves, Crime fiction, Detective fiction

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