The Dystopian Impulse in Modern Literature: Fiction as Social Criticism

By M. Keith Booker | Go to book overview

1
Zamyatin's We: Anticipating Stalin

As Yurij Striedter points out, dystopian fiction was a particularly popular genre in postrevolutionary Russia. Despite the "dictatorship of the proletariat," the social and cultural environment of the postrevolutionary years was well suited to the production of such fiction because of the massive changes that were under way in Soviet society, changes that were inspired by the utopian goals of Marxism but which were producing anything but utopian conditions. Moreover, the cultural climate of the early Soviet years was relatively open, allowing a wide variety of literary voices to be heard, though most dystopian works of this period (like Alexei Tolstoy Aelita and Andrei Platonov Chevengur) were basically supportive of the new regime. However (not surprisingly, given the inherently antiauthoritarian nature of the genre), dystopian fiction soon fell out of favor with the Soviet regime, though dystopias by foreign writers ranging from Wells to Bradbury were permitted as anticapitalist. However, potentially problematic dystopias from outside the Soviet Union like 1984 and Nabokov Invitation to a Beheading and Bend Sinister were forbidden ( Loseff68).

Yevgeny Zamyatin We, often considered to be the first genuine modern dystopian text, is one of Striedter's central examples, though Zamyatin's book is relatively unusual during the early Soviet period in its direct warnings of the potential abuses of power by the new Soviet government. In stark contrast to the faith shown in science and technology by Lenin and the other early Soviet leaders, We is centrally

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The Dystopian Impulse in Modern Literature: Fiction as Social Criticism
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Contributions to the Study of Science Fiction and Fantasy ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Introduction: Utopia, Dystopia, and Social Critique 1
  • Notes 22
  • 1 - Zamyatin's We: Anticipating Stalin 25
  • Notes 44
  • 2 - Huxley's Brave New World: The Early Bourgeois Dystopia 47
  • Notes 66
  • 3 - Orwell's 1984: The Totalitarian Dystopia after Stalin 69
  • Notes 89
  • 4 - The Bourgeois Dystopia After World War II 91
  • Notes 112
  • 5 - Postmodernism with a Russian Accent: The Contemporary Communist Dystopia 115
  • Notes 138
  • 6 - Skepticism Squared: Western Postmodernist Dystopias 141
  • Notes 170
  • Postscript: Literature and Dystopia 173
  • Works Cited 179
  • Index 193
  • About the Author 199
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