Bolshevik Ideology and Literature, 1917-1927

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Through an analysis of twenty-five texts, together with the particular dilemmas faced by their authors, this study illuminates a way of thinking that was instrumental in shaping a traumatic period in Russia’s history. Issues include: the attitude of the Bolshevik party toward literature; the relationship between belles-lettres and propaganda; the attitude toward pre-revolutionary culture; the significance of the term ‘proletarian’; the portrayal of heroes in literary texts; and the attitude to be adopted toward writers and artists who were unwilling to conform to the accepted viewpoint. Writers examined include Fadeev, Furmanov, Gladkov, Ivanov, Lavrenev, Leonov, Liashko, Libedinskii, Malyshkin, Pil’niak, Platonov, Seifullina, Serafimovich.


“…a pleasantly written, carefully constructed, and, above all, judicious book, based on the first editions of the author’s selected texts (an important point, in view of Soviet censorship’s role in distorting writers’ ideas and intentions, as political attitudes became increasingly intolerant). After a brief introduction, Cockerell devotes his first chapter to a series of questions which, together with their interconnections with the fiction of the period, form the substance of his monograph…..this attractively produced and lucidly written book should be welcomed for the level-headed contribution it makes to our understanding of an important period in the history of Russian literary consciousness.” – Modern Language Review

“Roger Cockrell’s study of one of the most exciting periods of Russian literature – the fragile post-revolutionary decade when innovation and censorship began their long dance of discord – fills a gap in current criticism. . . . Dr. Cockrell’s study considers a general series of important questions relating to the role of the proletarian artist and the concept of political ‘commitment’, tracing their argument across a range of well-known texts (by writers such as Platonov, Pil’niak, and Furmanov), and, particularly, Fadeev.” – Dr. Sally Dalton-Brown, University of Sussex, School of European Studies

“This is a modest but by no means unuseful survey of how certain writers responded to the incursions made, in the early Soviet era, by ideology into the process of writing, editing, publishing, and reviewing literature. . . . Chapter 3, one of the most interesting in the book, looks at works by Viacheslav Ivanov (especially his 1923 ‘Return of the Buddha,’ which Cockrell interestingly compares with Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness) , Boris Lavrenov, and Andrei Platonov that engage the kind of ideological themes promoted by the party but treat them in idiosyncratic and markedly ambivalent fashion. . . . informative brief history of writers and the regime in the first Soviet decade. As such, and given its brevity and accessibility, it makes a commendable introduction to the topic for undergraduates and graduate students.” – Slavic Review

Table of Contents

Table of contents:
Preface; Introduction
1. The Background: Literature as Propaganda; Proletarian Culture; Old and New; The Fellow-Travellers; Future Perfect
2. Bolshevik Imperatives
3. Ideological Ambiguities
4. Faddeev: The Early Stories
5. Fadeev: The Rout
6. The Idea and the Reality
Bibliography; Index

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