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

III
LITERARY TYPES IN THE THIRD PERIOD (1934-1941)

In the literary works of this period1 man is still shown in his social task as a worker in industrial and agricultural projects, but his personal life is not excluded. We no longer find a one-sided characterization of

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The appearance of new types in Soviet literature was stimulated by the dissolution of RAPP in 1932: the writer is no longer obliged to describe Five-Year Plan activities: he may again place at the centre of his work the picture of individual man. Hence the year 1934 is not a sharp dividing line between the two periods but we have chosen this date because the new tendencies are most clearly visible in the literary works published after 1934. -- The new Party line in respect to literature was defined at the first Congress of the newly founded Union of Writers; Ždanov, the mouthpiece of the Party, demanded of the authors 'socialist realism': the artist must know life, 'čtoby [. . .] izobrazit' dejstvitel'nost' v ee revoljucionnom razvitii'; this knowledge must be combined 's zadačej idejnoj peredelki i vospitanija trudjaščichsja ljudej v duche socializma' (Pervyi vsesojuznyj s'ezd sovetskich pisatelej, M., 1934, p. 4, col. 2). No tasks, no subjects are imposed any more: the artist is allowed a free choice of his subject, on condition that he shall illustrate the prescribed 'socialist' tendency. -- The meaning of this Party directive becomes most clear when it is compared to the hitherto valid ideas of depicting man. Up to now we mostly found two conceptions in works of communist writers: on the one hand a schematic one which prevailed immediately after the revolution and during the first Five-Year Plan: man is seen exclusively in the service of his social task. On the other hand there is the psychological one advocated by Voronskij and some proletarian writers influenced by him, aiming at rendering 'living man' with his inner tensions and conflicts. Ostensibly Ždanov took their side when he attacked the 'schematic portrayal and the lack of life' of the typical Five-Year Plan products (Literaturnaja gazeta, 6-2-1934, quoted in 'Bol'ševistskaja partija i sovetskaja literatura', Novyj mir, 1947, 5, p. 137). But at the same time he demanded that 'aktivnye stroiteli novoj žizni' should be the main heroes (Pervyj etc., p. 4, col. 1). And Gor'kij stated in his speech at the Congress that the centre of Soviet literature would be socialist work as organizer of the Soviet man and the Soviet man as organizer of socialist work (ibidem, p. 13, col. 2). It is denied that the portrayal of the man who is completely absorbed in his work might be one-sided, improbable or incomplete: on the contrary, man becomes fully himself precisely in and through the work: 'socialist individuality can develop only under conditions of collective labour' (ibidem, p. 17, col. 2). Instead of 'living man' the New Man is recommended, the harmonious type which should develop in socialist society according to Marxist doctrine and which, as the Party assures, already exists in Soviet Russia.

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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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