NOTES OF A NON-CONSPIRATOR by Efim Etkind
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NOTES OF A NON-CONSPIRATOR

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KIRKUS REVIEW

In the struggle for the right to live and breathe, this culture""--Russian culture under the Soviets--""has gained strength."" Speaking for the new wave of exiled resisters is Efim Etkind, translator and teacher, dismissed after 23 years from his post at Leningrad's Herzen Pedagogical Institute and denied the right to publish--in proceedings, detailed with ironic glee, that mock the justice they ape. ""Professor Aleksandrov has studied the use of specialist jargon. . . . Furaev, the historian of the Communist Party, deals with political literacy. . . . One is cowed by the memory of an old shame; others are seeking advancement, a trip to Japan, some preference for a child: ""not once in these meetings. . . was a human voice to be heard."" What had Etkind done? Nothing proven to be illegal. He returns to the 1963-64 ease of Joseph Brodsky, pilloried for being a parasitical unemployed poet, and quotes to stunning effect from his work. He traces the long, complex, costly (""one thousand man-hours') course of ""the sentence affair"" over an observation of Etkind's, intended for an anthology of verse translations, that ""During a certain period. . . Russian poets. . . spoke to the reader in the language of Goethe, Orbeliani, Shakespeare, and Hugo""; and explains his subsequent ""shameful"" compromise. ""Of course I realized its political explosiveness . . . . But I used a tactic which is normal in Soviet conditions, that of innocent understatement--you never know, it may slip by unnoticed."" He contrasts the Khrushchev thaw with the subsequent clamp-down, in which he got caught; counterpoises the emergence of protest in Russia, the growth of attention in the West. Sees, finally, no hope in Russia today: ""But how much energy, intelligence, and talent has been thrown to the winds!"" Those who have faith emigrate--like Etkind and Shragin (below), to mourn and wait.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1978
Publisher: Oxford Univ. Press