A HISTORY OF SOVIET LITERATURE by Vera Alexandrova

A HISTORY OF SOVIET LITERATURE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Neither as literary historian nor literary critic is Vera Alexandrova particularly persuasive; nevertheless, her study of Soviet literature, covering the two twenty year periods, from the October revolution to WWII and from that to the present, is a serviceable, succinct report. It grasps the socio-ideological background; it pinpoints many a perplexing personality; above all it demonstrates that, surprisingly enough, even under a profound and public tyranny writers could still-blood-and-tear-wise, at least- produce,- as witness the works of poets Mayakovsky, Yesenin, Pasternak, of novelists Babel, Pilnyak, Zoschenko. Throughout, of course, the hard luck vaudeville reigns: a book is always being banned or ""revised"", some so-called enemy of the people is being sent to Siberia or shot or merely ""erased"" from official annals; Stalin is ""purging"" that one, the Writers' Union is expelling this one, and the suicides, literally or figuratively, mount. Only people like Ehrenburg, Alexey Tolstoy and Sholokhov seemed able to reflect, with any dignity at all, the Party code of ""socialist realism"". The author notes all the successive shifts (the early challenges, the later dark and dreary disillusionments); she illuminates many little known figures (Paustovsky, Tvardovsky) and currently controversial ones (Nekrasov, Dudinstev); she remarks upon the younger generation of ""the thaw"", of Yevtushenko & Co., who sing significantly not of the Proletcult but of sincerity, honesty, loyalty in love, individualism. With reservations, a handy rundown.

Pub Date: June 7th, 1963
Publisher: Doubleday