HISTORY'S CARNIVAL: A Dissident's Autobiography by Leonid Plyushch

HISTORY'S CARNIVAL: A Dissident's Autobiography

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Another and yet not another: Ukrainian dissident Plyushch wrote this intellectual autobiography--the relatively short, crowded life of his inquiring mind--to explain what unites the diverse members of the Democratic Movement. The result, however, is anything but didactic. Born into a working-class family in 1939, Plyushch was a precocious child whose first confrontation with authority occurred at the age of eight when a teacher persuaded him that his religious grandmother's ""miracle"" cures could be explained by the ""theory of suggestion and hypnosis."" (To young Leonid's protest that his grandmother sometimes cured nursing infants, the teacher replied--after several days--that in such cases the mother responds to suggestion.) Accepting the new ideology ""because we never saw it tested by life,"" Plyushch became an enthusiastic member of the Komsomol and even sought admission to the KGB school. There soon followed a series of disorienting experiences. Khrushchev denounced Stalin, shaking Plyushch's ideological foundations; he befriended a young Jew, ""the first breach in my anti-Semitism""; a teaching stint convinced him of the vileness of the entire educational system. Disillusioned, the mathematician Plyushch turned to telepathy and yoga. He read omniverously, eclectically--Saint-Exup‚ry, the Bible, Solzhenitsyn, Ehrenburg, Yevtushenko, and samizdat. Then, after Khrushchev's overthrow, came the turning point: ""we have had enough of cults, voluntarism, and anti-Semitism,"" he protested to the Central Committee. Ignored by the Party and interrogated by the KGB, Plyushch began to dabble in samizdat--confirmed in his growing alienation by Kafka, Beckett, and Camus, and awakened to the problems of minorities by encounters with Baptists and Ukrainian nationalists. The Daniel-Sinyavsky trial and succeeding eruptions finally led him to join the Democratic Movement, a Marxist still but now a full-fledged dissident. His arrest followed in 1972, and he spent two-and-a-half years in a psychiatric prison hospital before his release to the West in early 1976. To be a non-conformist in the Soviet Union, he confirms in this incisive, often witty memoir, you must indeed be somewhat mad.

Pub Date: May 7th, 1979
Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich