the website of owen byron roberts
I wrote something for htmlgiant about the Russian fiction site Udaff.com:
It's mostly about profanity.
In an earlier draft of the piece I wrote (there were many drafts before it was finally published because it took me a long time to find someone to translate a couple of the stories into Russian) I talked a bit about how the work on Udaff.com reminded me a bit of two of my favorite Russian writers, Daniil Kharms and Alexander Vvedensky. Kharms and Vvedensky write in a way that is purposely ungrammatical and often absurd or childish. Their work was part of a Russian absurdist group called OBERIU that was squashed by the Soviet state. Both died early deaths and were censored and imprisoned during their lifetime. I ultimately cut these observations from the essay because it was pointed out to me that comparing the ungrammatical writing of a website I had read mostly using Google Translate and translated works of two poets writing in Russian in the 1920 and 30s was a bit precarious. But I imagine anyone reading the two would notice some of the similarities I'm talking about, the interesting part being that Kharms and Vvedensky were actual dissidents who transformed language and had to write allegorically about the world they lived in. The writers of Udaff.com talk about themselves as counter culture but actually reflect mainstream values, as I write about in the essay, and were writing anonymously on an internet platform infamous for its lack of censorship. They're both sort of self consciously offensive, Kharms and Vvedensky using it in a humorous and allegorical manner, while Udaff.com writers are just being gross for the sake of spectacle. There's another parallel in the fact that Kharms and Vvedensky weren't able to publish their literary efforts and so most of what we have now has been discovered in their notebooks, but their poetry was more often read out loud than published in print. The Udaff.com platform has a similar oral quality to it, although the stories exist permanently on the web, they're written without being edited (probably) and are consumed in an ephemeral way, the way we read facebook updates or tweets.
There's more to think about there, but mainly, if you like this Udaff.com stuff at all, you should definitely read some Kharms and Vvedensky, which is like actual good writing.