How could a Russian of keen intellect and broad sympathies maintain his faith in a maniacal meat-grinder regime? Philologist...

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How could a Russian of keen intellect and broad sympathies maintain his faith in a maniacal meat-grinder regime? Philologist Lev Kopelev is the original of Lev Rubin, the loyal Communist zek in Solzhenitsyn's First Circle: ""the only one of us [political prisoners] who thinks the Plowman is right."" He believed still, he confesses, that noble ends justify ignoble means. But he had protested Russian Army atrocities in East Prussia (out of concern chiefly for ""our own country and our own social system"") and been charged--at the instigation of his superior, Zabashtansky--with the spread of ""bourgeois humanism, of pity for the enemy."" Among the variegated prisoners, guards, and officials who crowd Kopelev's memoirs, the coarse, shrewd Zabashtansky stands out. He is Kopelev's natural adversary, his dramatic nemesis, arguably--in origin, in temperament--the Stalin to his Trotsky; a Ukrainian peasant who selected his future wife from the Komsomol files (only to sit in his office trembling for the sound of her acquiescent footsteps) and, faced with Kopelev's defection, threatens: ""People don't leave me that easily. When they go, they go with a bang, and without their Party card."" Through trial after trial, Kopelev strains to prove his orthodoxy, his trustworthiness; but he is defeated, as he must be--not only by the lies of his accusers and the timid corroboration of his friends--but by the very ""intellectual, 'petit-bourgeois' upbringing"" of which he has been accused, the propensity to question and criticize that separates him from the Zabashtanskys and their kind. (""What was it that attracted you to the Trotskyists in the first place?"" one of his interrogators asks of an early, ultimately damning defection.) Just how Kopelev came to his present apostasy (and active dissent) he does not say; and often as he speaks of his happiness of dejection, the voice-print is curiously neuter--except in the heat of argument. Personal tributes by Lillian Hellman and Robert F. Kaiser fore and aft help compensate.

Pub Date: Aug. 8, 1977

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1977