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This study examines Okudzhava’s depiction of the process of documentalization of the past as a defining feature of the novel Puteshestvie diletantov, giving reason to consider it a form of metahistory, or an artistic statement on the subject of historical knowledge.
The image of the document plays a central role in the novel Puteshestvie diletantov. Through it, Okudzhava depicts the process of knowing and (re)creating the past, as well as the process of its deformation, supplementation and modification. In the form of a document, the past finds existence in time and space, finds its author and addressee, and becomes submerged in a constantly changing context.
Okudzhava does not contest the truth of the past, but rather problematizes it, immersing the reader in its real element – the narrative one, permeated by the creative will of the individual. Within this element, two juxtaposed narrative streams stand out clearly: the fictional and the documentary, each shaping the picture of the past in different ways.
By thematicizing the issue of documents as evidence, Okudzhava at the same time thematicizes the influence of narrativity on the process of our recreation of past events, as well as on the course of these same events. The act of compiling a document and the act of narration appear in the novel as the driving force of the action and are treated by the author of Puteshestvie diletantov as a fully fledged manifestation of human will in History.
In this way, the metafictionality of the novel (its thematicization and problematization of various narrative forms) becomes the key to its metahistoricality (the thematicization and problematization of knowledge of the past, the composition of History), inasmuch as History itself is represented here in the form of a narrative stream.