Soviet Literary Characters: An Investigation into the Portrayal of Soviet Men in Russian Prose, 1917-1953

By Jeanne van der Eng-Liedmeier | Go to book overview

I
LITERARY TYPES IN THE FIRST PERIOD (1917-1929)

One trait is common to most works of the beginning of this period: a main character of the story, a hero, is lacking; the theme proper is the revolution.

In the works of communist writers1 the revolution is represented as a meaningful and necessary dialectic development, a struggle for power carried out by the revolutionary collectivity. In their descriptions of civil war this collectivity dominates: only gradually the in

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1
In the term 'communist writers' we are comprising the older communist writers like Serafimovič and the adherents of the so-called 'proletarian' groups who came to the fore after the revolution. They saw art mainly as a weapon in the classstruggle and at first contented themselves mostly with a primitive naturalism or realism; only the members of the LEF-group, for the greater part consisting of former Futurists, wanted to create a new 'factual' style, but their contribution to prose literature was of small account. Opposed to these groups and fiercely attacked by them were the non-communist authors, comprising also some older, already recognized authors and a group of younger writers who made their debut after the revolution, all of them called by Trockij poputeiki (fellow-travellers) because they travelled with the communists towards the same goal without sharing their views. The Party attitude towards them was defined in a resolution on literature ( July 1, 1925, quoted in Russkaja sovetskaja literatura, izd. 15e, M., 1954, pp. 8-12); they are valued as ' "specialist[y]" literaturnoj techniki [. . .] Obščej direktivoj dolžza zdes' byt' direktiva taktičnogo i bereinogo otnošenija k nim, t.e., takogo podchoda, kotoryj obespečival by vse uslovija dlja vožmožno bolee bystrogo ich perechoda na storonu kommunističeskoj ideologii.' (l.c., p. 10). As a matter of fact, these authors have played a great part in the creation of a new Russian literature after the civil war; at the end of this period their literary production was both qualitatively and quantitatively superior to that of the communist writers (cf. the statement of the proletarian critic L. Averbach, Klassovaja bor'ba v sovremennoj literature,' Zvezda, 1929, 1, pp. 146-7). For further particulars, see E. J. Brown, The Proletarian Episode in Russian Literature 1928-1932 ( N.Y., 1953), p. 6ff., and G. Struve, Soviet Russian Literature 1917-1950 ( Norman, Oklahoma, 1951), p. 71ff. -- We shall discuss the works of communist writers and fellow-travellers separately as far as there is any difference of vision between them. Sometimes it is difficult or even impossible to draw the dividing line, as in communist writers with right wing leanings or in fellow-travellers with left wing leanings.

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Soviet Literary Characters: An Investigation into the Portrayal of Soviet Men in Russian Prose, 1917-1953
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 1
  • Foreword 3
  • Contents 5
  • Introduction 7
  • I - Literary Types in the First Period (1917-1929) 11
  • II - Literary Types in the Second Period (1929-1934) 75
  • III - Literary Types in the Third Period (1934-1941) 107
  • IV - Literary Types in the Fourth Period (1946-1953) 129
  • Conclusion 157
  • Bibliography 169
  • Index of Authors 171
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