Smolny Beyond Borders

A Liberal Arts Initiative

Autofiction and Scandal. Lecture by Larissa Muravieva


Date and Time:

Thursday, May 23, 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm CET

It would seem that the idea of the possibility of literary scandal lost its relevance back in the second half of the twentieth century, when traditional norms and taboos began to blur. In the era of postmodernism, it was difficult to imagine trials akin to those of the authors of «The Flowers of Evil» or «Madame Bovary». However, in our time, when autofiction has come to the forefront of cultural life, the possibility of literary scandal is once again attracting attention. The genre, which plays on the boundaries between the fictional and the autobiographical, not only calls into question the authenticity of the story told and undermines the prestige of autobiography, which has traditionally strived for truth, but also raises the issue of the boundaries between one’s own and others’ experiences. Writers of autofiction regularly find themselves at the centre of public scandals, face lawsuits for invading their privacy or deceiving their audiences, while their texts become the subject of litigation and even initiate criminal proceedings. Karl Ove Knausgaard, Camille Laurens, Christine Angot, Vanessa Springora are just some of the names that have found themselves at the centre of scandalous stories. Mixing the factual and the fictional, violating privacy, exploiting other people’s lives, distorting the past, writing about the dead are the main aspects that give autofiction a reputation as a scandalous genre. This lecture will discuss the most famous scandals in the world of autofiction, the ways the authors deal with the boundaries between their own and others’ experiences, and why the idea of a “stolen life” embodied in a literary work becomes one of the pivotal plots of autofiction.