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Main heroes of Makanin's 1987 novel He and She (Odin i odna) are "shestidesiatniki" Gennadii Goloshchekov and Ninel', two idealistic people who were involved in student politics during the 1950s, and who could never bring themselves to kow-tow to the regime, people who realized that ‘the intellect and conformism arc two incompatible things, Salieri’. They are depicted as innately honourable, but the harsh spotlight of Makanin’s prose shows them also to be pathetic and even farcical. Ninel' is always bathetically tormented by a sense of guilt over trifles, usually involving her co-workers. Gennadii is the kind of man who gets out of bed late at night to rescue a stranger whom his own drinking companion, Daev, confessed he had abandoned in a snowdrift. Gennadii the knight-errant then finds himself in the snowdrift — pushed in by an ungrateful rescuee who then co-opts Gennadii’s taxi. In such incidents Makanin’s Gennadii is rather like an intellectual version of some of the characters created by Makanin's contemporary author Evgenii Popov — people whom, despite their fundamental goodness, life treats unkindly according to its own rather black sense of humour.

Obliteration is the fate that lies in wait for these two people. The description of Ninel’s dream, in which she walks naked through a succession of empty rooms with tables laid for meals and looks for the ‘race of her time’ (‘vyvodok svoego vremeni’), suggests that Makanin’s text is about a generation which has disappeared, leaving no trace, like the victims of the purges. Ninel’s dream also suggests the desire that she has to ‘belong’, to be part of a collective, a desire which Makanin had examined in his earlier works. The two are unable to find common ground with the people, or even with other members of the intelligentsia; and, most damningly, they are unable even to recognize each other as members of that lost tribe of the shestidesiatniki. Attempts by Igor' Petrovich and his wife to draw the two together fail utterly, and Makanin suggests that even after death Ninel' and Gennadii would be unable to find a common tie. They will remain, as the text’s title indicates, alone.

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