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Yale University Press
See No Evil: Literary Cover-Ups and Discoveries of the Soviet Camp Experience

See No Evil: Literary Cover-Ups and Discoveries of the Soviet Camp Experience

by Dariusz Tolczyk, Gary Saul Morson


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See No Evil: Literary Cover-Ups and Discoveries of the Soviet Camp Experience

Believing that human actions could be controlled by a totalitarian government, Stalin and his followers subjected millions of Soviet citizens to acts of state terrorism and imprisonment in labor camps. But this was not enough. Seeking to control human thought as well, Soviet authorities provided official words and images to legitimize the gulag, distort its moral nature, and even glorify its "necessary" violence. This fascinating book is the first in English to examine official Soviet concentration camp literature from the early 1920s through the mid-1960s. Dariusz Tolczyk probes the evolution of this literature, the totalitarian thinking that inspired it, and the scandalous role played by Russian literary intellectuals who collaborated in its creation.

The author considers how Soviet novelists and poets in the 1920s dealt with the Leninist notion that ethics is entirely utilitarian and relative; analyzes the official glorification of the gulag in the early 1930s in such works as White Sea Canal, a composite volume by 36 famous authors praising the use of slave labor; and examines why the subject of the camps became taboo from 1937 to the Khrushchevian thaw of the early 1960s. Tolczyk also provides a masterful account of the problem posed for Soviet censors by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich and shows how the failure of the Soviet regime to come to terms with the ethical legacy of the gulag signaled the decline of the totalitarian project.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780300066081
Publisher: Yale University Press
Publication date: 09/28/1999
Series: Russian Literature and Thought Series
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 384
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.25(h) x (d)

About the Author

Dariusz Tolczyk is assistant professor in the department of Slavic languages and literatures at the University of Virginia.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix
Introduction xi
Fiction and Fear
Totalitarianism between Word and Experience
From Tragedy to Festival
Revolutionary Violence and Ethical Experimentation in the 1920s
The Glory of the Gulag
Stalin's Camps as Social Medicine
Hope Beyond Hope
Communist Martyrology and the Post-Stalinist Thaw
A Sliver in the Throat of Power
Solzhenitsyn's One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich and the Boundaries of the Soviet Public Discourse
Notes 311(38)
Index 349

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