Wednesday, July 23, 2014

A Case Study Socialist Realism

"Comrade Stalin can't show every man personally to his place in the firing lines."  Thomas Lahusen cites Batamov to Kovshov in Far From Moscow.

"We know that the positive hero of socialist realism exchanges his private life for his duty to the socialist society."

"The most important feature of Soviet censorship:  it forbids silence..." Thomas Luhusen citing Andrei Siniavsky in "Samizdat and the Rebirth of Literature."

"Anzheave felt the profound need to describe in one way or the other what he had been witnessing."  Simonov explaining Azhaev's whitewashed description of prisoner labor.

"We never ceased for one minute to be communists."  Mitia Promyslov in The Boxcar.

As mentioned in a previous post, with Gene Kuperman, Thomas Lahusen is the editor of a wonderful collection of essays entitled Late Soviet Culture:  From Perestroika to Novostroika.  Thomas Luhusen's own contribution to the collection is a short essay entitled "The Mystery of the River Adun:  Reconstruction of a Story."  In this essay, Lahusen traces the editorial evolution and public reception of one of the Soviet Union's most popular works of literature, the socialist realist novel, Far From Moscow.  The book was originally a paean to Stalinism, but in the aftermath of the Thaw Stalin's presence in new editions was toned down while the anti-semitic--or "anti-cosmopolitanism--" themes were diluted.  The deepest mystery of the novel, however, remains:  how could a former inmate of Stalin's gulag hide the real conditions of such labor camps and in fact glorify the labor of fellow prisoners?  Ironically, the answer can be found in the introduction of a fellow apologist, Simonov.  According to Simonov, anybody who lived through such a terrible experience as the labor campus naturally strove to find real meaning in the experience.  While many prisoners produced 'prisoner camp" testimonies that outlined in grim detail their sufferings, others inevitably sought to tell others about their experience in the language of power.  The result was a betrayal of those who died and suffered from the communists' arbitrary and capricious penal system, but not altogether unintelligible.  Could all of this brutality have been in vain?  Certainly something noble would come out of all of the pain.  Lahusen's close reading of the different editions of Far From Moscow offers up an interesting approach to other forms of Soviet culture.  After all, it's not enough to analyze only the Soviet Union's dissident art forms.  Complexity must be identified even in the state's most prized works of art.

1 comment:

  1. "Certainly something noble would come out of all of the pain." - The nobility would come if those who are still alive celebrate and commemorate the ultimate sacrifice of those who had untimely deaths during the socialist realism. Your evaluation is sound enough. - Layce of paper writing.