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Post-Revolutionary Literature in Russia
August 28, 2008 15:07


The first turbulent years after 1917, when in accord with new social forces released by overthrow of autocracy there appeared numerous confronting literary groupings, were the only revolutionary period of literature development in the Soviet Union. The opposition mainly unfolded between the adherents of the 19th century great literary tradition of realism and heralds of new proletarian culture.

Novelty was mostly welcome in poetry, the original messenger of revolution.

Futuristic poetry of Vladimir Vladimirovich Mayakovsky (1893–1930) and his followers supported by the “social order”, i.e. daily class struggle, represented an utter breach of tradition. Some writers however adopted former means of expression to new themes. Thus, for example, the peasant poet Sergei Alexandrovich Yesenin (1895–1925) resorted to traditional lyrical style to sing of the would-be life expected in village under the soviet rule.

 

Certain works of post-revolutionary prose literature were created in the spirit of realism of the 19th century. Majority of them described the bloody Civil War of 1918–1920 – an example to this are terrible scenes of social decay during overall strife described in the novel The Naked Year (1922) by Boris Andreyevich Pilnyak (Vogau). Similar examples are stories of the Red Cossack army in Red Cavalry (1926) by Isaac Emmanuilovich Babel or the memorable image of Levinson, the main character of Alexander Alexandrovich Fadeyev’s novel The Rout (1927).

The prevailing theme in early prose of “revolution’s fellow travelers” as Lev Trotsky put it, was the tragic struggle between hankering for the new and attachment to the old – constant aftermath of the civil war. This conflict is revealed in two early novels by Konstantin Aleksandrovich Fedin (1892–1977), namely Cities and Years (1924) and Brothers (1928), as well as in Leonid Maximovich Leonov’s novels Badgers (1925) and Thief (1928), penetrating psychological realism of which is the evidence of Dostoevsky’s impact.

Still stronger bond with writers of the past is felt in Aleksey Nikolayevich Tolstoy’s monumental trilogy The Road to Calvary (1922–1941), depicting pre-revolutionary, revolutionary and post-revolutionary Russia.

Under conditions of absence of political censorship in the early years of Soviet rule quite a lot was allowed to satiric writers who freely derided the new regime: like, for example, Yury Karlovich Olesha (1899-1960) in the keen political satire Envy (1927) or Valentin Petrovich Kataev (1897-1986) in the story The Embezzlers (1926), a brilliant depiction of two Soviet officials’ artless fraud;

and certainly the biggest satirist of the Soviet epoch Mikhail Mikhailovich Zoshchenko (1895-1958) in his numerous caustic and sad stories.

The communist party set to official regulation of literature with the beginning of the first five-year plan (1928–1932); it was intensely assisted by the Russian Association of Proletarian Writers. As a consequence there emerged abundance of industrial prose, poetry and drama that hardly ever rose above the level of monotonous propaganda or report. This inrush was preceded by novels of Fedor Vasilevich Gladkov (1883-1958), whose most popular work Cement (1925) described heroic labor for rebuilding of a tumbledown factory. Noteworthy is Pilnyak’s novel Volga Flows into the Caspian Sea (1930) about erecting a gigantic dam turning the flow of the Moskva River; strangely enough it shows greater sympathy to the former rather than the new builders. Leonov’s two books Sot’ (1930) and Skutarvsky (1933) which are overloaded with excessive technical details just as numerous industrial novels of that time, still manifest Leonov’s typical interest in “the inner person” and man’s spiritual life.

Kataev’s Time, Forward! (1932) about cement manufsacturers is not devoid of humour and amusement.

Of all the plentiful novels about collectivization there stands out Virgin Soil Upturned (1932) by Michail Aleksandrovich Sholokhov (1905-1984), probably because its main character Davydov is a profound image endowed with charisma and totally different from schematic characters of industrial prose.

Sources:
    krugosvet.ru


Tags: Russian Literature Post-Revolutionary Writers    

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