These are the earliest of Sholokov's short stories -- all written between 1924 and 1926 -- just prior to his fourteen years' devotion to the massive and acclaimed The Quiet Don. Translated brilliantly by H.C. Stevens, the central theme pervading all is alienation, the grim plight of the leaders at a time when they were isolated from and deplored by the great masses of the Russian people. The Azure Steppe, Dry Rot, and Alien Blood describe the life of the burly, vigorous Don Cossacks in the civil war. Sholokov's Russia of the 20's was yet replete with the shadow of Czarism:- Christianity at its worst, dire poverty, rank and ulcerating injustice.. It is the youth of this transition in two of his most typical ventures, The Shamechild and The Farm Laborers, who must choose between the old order of griping acquiescence and rebellion; in the unshackling, however, incur the hatred, the distrust, the isolation from parent, friend, and master. Fiodor Boitsov, protagonist of one, is grossly underpaid, egregiously exploited, and arbitrarily denied his wages. ""You go to the Young Communists"", Fiodor is advised. ""They are your kith and kin. They're naked lads like you and me."" Aligned with the party, he finds justice, comrades, and the power of a fist. In another Portrait of the Communist as an Uncommitted Youth, an eight year old loses his father in the Bolshevik army and is called to battle by a beatific vision of Comrade Lenin beckoning him on. Sholokov's people remain eminently symbolic; but as a dialectic dialogian, he captures the earthy gut of Soviet imagery. Only in his twenties, Mikhail Sholokov was a master of his form, a powerful and sensuous landscape poet.