A One-Way Ticket to Paradise?

Adapting the Bible in Venedikt Erofeev’s Moskva-Petushki (1973), Stephen Mulrine’s Moscow Stations (1993), and A.L. Kennedy’s Paradise (2004)


  • Caroline Lusin


Russian literature has long had a great impact on British authors, especially from the early 20th century onwards. Russian topics, motifs, and modes of writing in particular were readily adapted into British fiction. A comparatively recent case is the adaptation of Venedikt Erofeev’s subversive postmodern drinker’s novel Moscow to the End of the Line (Moskva-Petushki, 1973) into Scottish literature. In a multilayered process of linguistic, cultural and generic translation, Stephen Mulrine adapted this iconic text for the stage under the ambiguous title Moscow Stations (1993). The new title emphasizes the original’s pronounced biblical subtext by alluding to the Way of the Cross, which is also at the core of A.L. Kennedy’s Paradise (2004), another “drunken Odyssey-cum-Via Dolorosa” (Mulrine) that bears striking similarities to both the original and Mulrine’s adaptation. Erofeev’s and Mulrine’s as well as Kennedy’s protagonists are continuously oscillating between their actual space of belonging – the empirical reality they live in – and an elusive space of longing which they try to reach through drink – their individual, alluring paradise.

This essay proposes to use Yuri Lotman’s model of culture as a ‘semiosphere’ to conceptualize and analyse the relationship between ‘original’ and ‘adaptations’. It will pay special attention to the varying ways in which all three authors employ biblical motifs and stories to position their narratives in the field of tension between a hegemonic culture and a transgressive subculture.