Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Some favorite Quotes from Malaparte's The Kremlin Ball

Curzio Malaparte's unfinished novel, The Kremlin Ball


One day while speaking with Lunacharsky, the author asked him if a Marcel Proust existed in Russia. 
"Yes," Luncharsky responded, "every Soviet writer is a proletarian Proust."

Since the Europe of tomorrow is to be found in the Russia of tomorrow, it is equally true that the Europe of today is to be found in the Russia of today.

The time for laughter is well-night over for the free men of our times.

Character Descriptions

Her black eyes were swollen with sensuality, malice, and lack of sleep. So unlike the glassy eyes of Russian working-class women, her eyes were eyes of the flesh in which images didn't reflect but appeared tattooed.

She had a large pulpy mouth with thick lips across which an ironic and sometimes spiteful smile strayed like a ray of light through the crack beneath a closed door.

Madame Yegorova was a petite brunette, very beautiful, clad in soft flab like a pearl in a velvet case, and, like a pearl, she had a damp, cold listlessness, a savage delicacy, a multi-shaded gray sheen of indifference, a distracted, distant callousness.

At the base of the Kremlin wall in Red Square, inside the great wooden mausoleum designed by Shchusev, Lenin's mummy, small and shrunken like the mummy of a child, was slowly rotting.  Periodically, German specialists showed up from Berlin to empty, scrape out, and disinfect the shell of that precious crustacean, that sacred mummy, the porcelain white face lit up by freckles veiled by a greenish mold-like sweat.

His small decrepit hand, dark and hairy, moved across his face like a large spider on its web.

Communist Elite

The chief characteristic of the communist nobility is not bad taste, vulgarity, and power:  It is suspicion, and, I would also add, ideological intransigence.

From a social point of view, actually, snobbishness was the hidden source behind the many worldly activities of that very powerful, and already corrupt, society, which had lived, up until just a moment before, in misery, suspicion, and with the uncertainty of secrecy and emigration.

I felt it was all doomed--all that rot, that corrupt class, that great jumble of prostitutes, pederasts, actors, actresses, libertines, and profiteers, of Nepmen and kulaks, of black-market merchants, of Soviet functionaries who bought their clothes in London and Paris, and imitated the fashions in New York and Berlin...

Moscow's communist high nobility didn't  like to show off in public places.

"Only a blind man," he said, "could laugh at Lunacharsky.  Of all the communist high nobility in Moscow, he is the only one who has a presentiment of death."


"And to think," she said after a brief silence, " I am accused of having counterrevolutionary tendencies simply because I dress decently."

"Here in Moscow, one likes only what is liked by the workers."
Everyone contents himself with whatever Napoleon he happens to find.

Kamenev was a harmless man, but one doesn't have the right to be a harmless man when among the leaders of a revolution.

"Not everyone knows how to die in a gilded armchair..."

"William Blake saw angels perched on tree branches," Mayakovsky said.
"Hush, it's forbidden to speak of angels in Russia."

"Mayakovsky was nothing but a dirty bourgeois."

"Mayakovsky didn't have the right to kill himself."
"You're right, Marika," I said.  "In Russia, it is forbidden to kill oneself for nothing."
"The word nothing," Marika said, "doesn't exist in Lenin's Russia."

"Why do you want to see the room where Mayakovsky died?" Lunacharsky asked.  "Are you by chance a bourgeois romantic?"

"...occasionally there are deaths, but never corpses."

"Are you sure you believe in God?  All foreigners, as soon as they've set foot in Soviet Russia, suddenly realize they believe in God!"

To what, I asked myself, could an intelligent man ever be converted to in America?

"In Soviet Russia," I said, "suicide has the explosive power of a miracle."

In the USSR, miracles don't happen.  God doesn't count for anything here and has nothing to do with what happens in Soviet Russia.

What presumption, what insolence, what a lack of tact to be stationmaster during a revolution.  He deserved what he go.  It's a luxury to be innocent when the world is blowing up like an old locomotive boiler.

It was a bourgeois presumption to believe oneself innocent, always innocent.  Christ hadn't possessed that stupid bourgeois presumption.

Jesus Christ was a notorious instrument of global capitalism, a dangerous Trotskyite.

On Soviet Man

He was the first "lonely" man that I had seen in Soviet Russia, where loneliness was considered a luxury, a form of bourgeois degeneracy, an intellectual condition that was incompatible with Marxism.

"What is Christ called in Soviet Russia?  In the USSR where is Christ hiding?"

"Christ is by now a useless character in Russia.  It's useless to be Christian in Russia.  We don't need Christ anymore."

"Christ was not resurrected!  When Christ tried to go up to heaven he was shot down by the glorious Red Army Air Force."

"Why are you laughing?" he asked me.  "Perhaps you find me ridiculous?  Perhaps you think that an armchair in Soviet Russia is a useless and ridiculous object?  Lenin actually died in an armchair."

"What do poets sing about in Russia?" I asked in a raised voice.
"...We sing of the smell of iron filings," he said, "of the smell of human sweat in Soviet workshops full of men drunk on weariness, we sing of calloused hands, unkempt beards, of the flaming eyes of naked men before the mouths of the blast furnaces.  We sing of the Five-Year Plan, of tractors, of mechanical plots, anvils, hammers and trip hammers, of Stalin's genius and of the red flags fluttering on factory chimneys."

In the USSR, a waistcoat and a briefcase under your arm were signs of power.

Suicide in the USSR was a typical counterrevolutionary act...

He was a man without guilt, an innocent man, finding himself at a particular moment in the middle of the railway tracks, and the locomotive that was the Soviet Revolution had run him down.


One cannot pretend that in a revolution only the guilty die.  Imagine such a thing!  Someone has to die.  In fact, the death of someone innocent is always much more useful than the death of someone guilty.

On Russians

I asked myself if his personality hadn't been, in fact, determined by that typical Slavic narcissism that afflicts every character in Russian literature, especially in Dostoevsky, as well as every Russian hero, be he the most humble, the most deprived, the most ignoble, the most corrupt.

He appeared oppressed by a resentful modesty, by a sad jealousy, but at the same time intoxicated by the deep gratification of his own public humiliation, which is characteristic of Russians and left him naked and helpless.

...displaying that loving familiarity with the dead unique to Russian people.

"All of Russia is a tomb.  All of Russia is Stalin's tomb."


Sparrow Hills, St. Basil's Cathedral, the Kremlin

Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Pushkin, Bulgakov, Yesenin, Mayakovsky, Isadora Duncan


Stalin, Trotsky, Kamenev, Luncharsky, Lenin, Patriarch Tikhon, Trotsky's sister (Madame Kamrneva), Prince Lvov, Chekhov, Solovyov, Krapotkin

No comments:

Post a Comment