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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 and The Hydraulic Power Station. ...
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 and The Hydraulic Power Station. However, their enthusiasm--spontaneous and idealistic at first--soon became an obligatory song of praise as the massive waterworks led to slavery.
Combining investigative journalism with literary history, Westerman examines the books and lives of writers caught in the wheels of the system.
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.
Number 1 Writer 7
Botanist in the Desert 81
Oriental Despotism 107
The Illusion 133
Stalin's Cherry Orchard 159
Hurrah Patriotism 215
The Bay at Kara Bogaz 243
Liriki vs Fiziki 271