Engineers of the Soul: The Grandiose Propaganda of Stalin's Russia [NOOK Book]

Overview

The astounding and often comic story of writers fostering the tragic delusions of Stalinist Russia.

frank Westerman draws the reader into the wild euphoria of the Russian Revolution, as art and reality are bent to radically new purposes. Writers of renown, described by Stalin as "engineers of the soul," were encouraged to sing the praises of canal and dam construction under titles such as Energy: The Hydraulic Power Station and Onward, Time! ...
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Engineers of the Soul: The Grandiose Propaganda of Stalin's Russia

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Overview

The astounding and often comic story of writers fostering the tragic delusions of Stalinist Russia.

frank Westerman draws the reader into the wild euphoria of the Russian Revolution, as art and reality are bent to radically new purposes. Writers of renown, described by Stalin as "engineers of the soul," were encouraged to sing the praises of canal and dam construction under titles such as Energy: The Hydraulic Power Station and Onward, Time! but their enthusiasm --spontaneous and idealistic at first --soon became an obligatory song of praise. and as these colossal waterworks led to slavery and destruction, soviet writers, such as Maxim Gorky, Isaak Babel, Konstantin Paustovsky, and Boris Pasternak, were forced to labor on in the service of a deluded totalitarian society.

Combining investigative journalism with literary history, Engineers of the Soul is a journey through contemporary Russia and soviet-era literature. Westerman examines both the culture landscape under Stalin's rule and the book --and lives of writers caught in the wheels of the soviet system.


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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Translated into English for the first time, this is an account of one journalist's struggles to find the truth versus the fiction in various writings produced by some of the Russian Revolution's most prolific scribes. After scouring important works, specifically Paustovsky's Kara Bogaz, it becomes increasingly clear to Westerman (Ararat: In Search of the Mythical Mountain) that many of the prominent literary supporters of the Russian Revolution were bought into endorsement as opposed to truly supporting the cause. As he travels between historical venues, Westerman becomes entangled with historians and family members who open their hearts to the budding journalist. Close reading and heavy research lead him straight into the fervor and lies that surround Stalin and his "faithful" writers. Westerman writes a detailed and enthralling account of his journey through Soviet literature including discovering the revolution's best kept secrets while trying to appreciate the talented writers who created a web of deceit in the name of success. (Jun.)
Financial Times
Engagingly written and extensively researched, the book covers compelling historical and literary ground.
Cleveland Plain Dealer
Fascinating . . . In addition to tracing the Soviet style and telling the stories of individual writers, Westerman also follows routes these authors traveled.
Kirkus Reviews

A former Moscow correspondent for a Dutch newspaper conducts a literary travelogue revealing a remarkable geography anda strange, fraught alliance when the pen was not as mighty as the hammer and sickle of the Soviet Union.

"Engineer" was the Soviet profession of choice when Stalin designated his cadre of writers "engineers of the soul," purveyors of instruction and inspiration to the reading proletariat. Social Realism, in narratives that were not exactly fiction and not quite fact but always orthodox opinion, extolled socialist hydraulic engineering and the correct means of production. Heroics, history and hydraulics were aligned in the patriotic service of the Motherland. The arbiter of the works of the Red army of writers was Maxim Gorky, the Father of Soviet letters and chief of the Union of Soviet Writers. Brigades of hacks were dispatched to distant construction sites, and popular titles includedCement,Energy andThe Hydroelectric Plant—those were novels, not to be confused with the purportedly factualThe Great Waterways of the Soviet Union. One book, authored by a collective, celebrated the hopeless reconfiguration of Kara Bogaz, a salty bay of the Caspian Sea in what is now Turkmenistan. Westerman (Ararat: In Search of the Mythical Mountain, 2010) aligns the chronicles with the facts and locales to unearth the truth beneath the fanciful tales. The author examines the sad example of Konstantin Paustovsky, who wrote of the salt flats of Kara Bogaz from a distance. It was the era of the NKVD, Kremlin show trials and the Orwellian Ministry of Truth, and tons of offending texts were pulped.

An insightful history of the lives, times and works of some authors now virtually forgotten in the West, and a valuable addition to the study of Soviet letters.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781468305333
  • Publisher: Overlook
  • Publication date: 8/7/2012
  • Sold by: Penguin Group
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 320
  • File size: 940 KB

Meet the Author

Frank Westerman lived and worked in Moscow from 1997 to 2002 as correspondent for the leading Dutch NRC Handelsblad newspaper. Westerman is the author of seven books, including Ararat.

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Table of Contents

Prologue 1

Number 1 Writer 7

Maelstrom 35

Belomor 57

Botanist in the Desert 81

Oriental Despotism 107

The Illusion 133

Stalin's Cherry Orchard 159

Rab-Rabochy 189

Hurrah Patriotism 215

The Bay at Kara Bogaz 243

Liriki vs Fiziki 271

Acknowledgements 299

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