Early Soviet Writers

Early Soviet Writers

Early Soviet Writers

Early Soviet Writers

Excerpt

With a few happy exceptions, Soviet Russian literature of the last two decades repels the Western reader by its provincialism, lack of originality and spiritual impoverishment, and makes him wonder whether this is indeed all that is left of a great tradition, the tradition of Lev Tolstoi and Fyodor Dostoyevski. That Russian literature has lost its character and Russian writers their individuality since the revolution is self-evident.

The primary purpose of this book is to trace the course of the decline by following, at close range, the development of individual writers, with the emphasis on their written word rather than on biographical data.

Under the Bolshevik cultural policy--a planned and systematic attempt to stifle that which Aleksandr Blok called "the freedom of creation, the inner freedom"--some writers readily renounced their creative individuality, others under duress. The most talented often protested and rebelled. Boris Pasternak, for example, declared that the dictatorship of the proletariat need not be a dictatorship of the mediocre. Among the onetime rebels were Vladimir Mayakovski, Artyom Vesyolyi and even Mikhail Sholokhov, who resigned himself but is still not wholly tamed. In the case of Andrei Platonov, on the other hand, the "inner freedom" was reduced to compassion; his work is one sustained plea for compassion. Aleksandr Grin, in a supreme revolt of the imagination against the Communist order of things, preserved his individuality by escaping, in his fantastic tales, to a romantic continent of his own creation. Others fell silent or were silenced. Still others joined the dictators . . .

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