RUSSIAN THEATER: From the Empire to the Soviets by Marc Slonim

RUSSIAN THEATER: From the Empire to the Soviets

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KIRKUS REVIEW

It is hardly surprising that many contemporary surveys of Russian theater attempt to unearth some common denominator between conditions today and those that prevailed when Stanislavsky was in his prime. Those who love the arts, Slonim among them, apparently still hope that Russian drama will revive from the whited sepulchre of ""socialist realism"". He shows that from the beginning ""Russian theatrical life was dependent on the throne and was made an affair of state"" and traces the procession of empires and administrations in which the arts could hardly have flourished in the Eurasian colossus had they not been patronized, subsidized and controlled by the government. While Slonim is obviously not in favor of ""socialist realism"", he also to make one distinction. In the past Western Europe influence played a vital part, if not a dominant one. Germans, Italians and Frenchmen competed for power on the entire artistic scene. But since the Communists have destroyed the working effectiveness of outside elements and banned those elements as ""Formalist"" or worse, little is left to Soviet artists but a reliance on folklore themes or the Party leitmotif ""Soviet man, the greatest in all history, must be enshrined in literature for the edification of all"". How then is there hope that Russian authors can break the bonds of ""insipid uniformity"", of ""naked black and white tendentiousness""? If Soviet repertory is glorified as the one and only goal of Soviet art, and the price of deviation is the neck of the artist, Slonim falls to supply any very good clues as to the source of his hopes. There are, on the other hand, some very meritorious passages in this book, his lucid comments on the ""Method"", and his historical coverage of many authors important to overall development of the pattern but little remembered today.

Publisher: World