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1967 - Image 13

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The Michigan Daily, 1967-00-00
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* S 6~ I S - 4


Mrs. Ginzburg
and Papa Joe
Continued from page one response, but behind it is a fatalism and
in spite of Svetlana's self-indulgent ten- and inability to see that a society of hu-
dency to see Stalinism as yet- another mans is not an immutable entity whose
grotesque episode in the case history of whole is greater than its parts, the per-
suffering Mother Russia. Those Soviets sons who compose it. Too often we are
who have chosen in various ways to op- tempted by the haunting lines of Michel-
pose the stupidity and cruelty of their angelo that Mrs. Ginzburg quotes:
government and party deserve our re- In this dread age of terror and of
spect and admiration not as Russians shame, Thrice blest is he who
but as free men - Pasternak by damn- neither sees nor feels. Leave me then
ing politics and withdrawing, Sinyavsky here, and trouble not my rest.
and Daniel by defying censorship and Genocide, mass deportations, concen-
going to prison, and even Litvinov, some- tration camps and wars of attrition are
time Foreign Minister under Stalin, by not phenomena that can be wished away
choosing to remain in office, and at- by poetry or erased from history by
tempt, albeit unsuccessfully, to mitigate party fiat. As Mrs. Ginzburg undoubted-
the effects of a system he considered re- ly knows, but cannot or will not admit,
pulsive. these will exist as long as we individual-
ly and collectively refuse to acknowledge
In reflecting on her experience, how- and resist them in whatever way we can.
ever, Mrs. Ginzburg responds, in effect, Mrs. Meisner is a writer for the New
as most of us would, in the agonized Media Project in Washington, D. C.
voice of the guard at Dachau: "But what She recently spent a year travelling
could I do?" A perfectly understandable in the Soviet Union.
. The stark reality
of an unextinguished moon


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The Master's devilish deal


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Continued from page three
acters, three of whom are clowns, two
female, four human, in various com-
Andrey Babichev is the managing di-
rector of the Food Trust: "He is at once
avaricious and envious. He wants to
have a hand in frying all the omelets...
From his own flesh he wants to produce
everything men eat." Strange, no?
His brother, Ivan, is a dockyard work-
er turned revolutionary, and inventor.
Nikolay Kavalerov is a youthful bum
who has been befriended by Andrey and
who wishes he were rich like his bene-
factor. Valya is Ivan's daughter, the
only "normal" person involved in the
action Ophelia is some weird destruc-
tive instrument contrived by Ivan out
of a pair of compasses. "She can blow
up mountains. She can fly in the air.
She can carry things on her back, crush
metals. She can be used either as a
kitchen range or as a perambulator or
as a long-range gun. In her resides the
genius of engineering!"
Although it was obviously an attack
on the Soviet state, Envy was published
in 1927 and was highly acclaimed.
In "The Journal of an Author" Olye-
sha says of writing simply, "One should
look at the world anew." The interac-
tion of his characters shows that he
does indeed have a peculiar way of
viewing the world, and interpreting
events. ("Lelia took an apricot out of
the bag, broke it across its tiny rump,
and threw the stone away.") His style
is nothing like what has been passing
the CP sensors of late!

Somewhat saner but no less daring is
The Tale of the Unextinguished Moon,
by Boris Pilnyak, a contemporary of
Olyesha. His images are more conven-
tional, the plots sometimes less out-of-
the way. The prose is tighter - sen-
tences short and altogether more com-
prehensible than Olyesha, although in
several instances ("At the Gate" to
name one) he proves capable of an
equal degree of obscurity.
The title story is a fictional rehash of
an incident that occured in 1925. Stalin
had ordered the Commissar of War,
Mikhail Frunze, to submit to an opera-
tion that ostensibly he needed. Frunze
died conveniently on the operating table.
Pilnyak's version, names changed or
not given ("the man who never
stooped") appeared in 1927 - evidently
a good year for that sort of thing. The
circumstances are essentially the same,
with just a suggestion of foul play.
Pilnyak presents a much starker re-
ality than Olyesha. He was a linguist,
and his work is impressive in its over-
all quality, and in the unity of theme
and language. In some ways he was a
scientist,,or perhaps a philosopher, con-
cerned with language as a precise and
variable means of expression.
Both collections of stories are repre-
sentative of their respective authors in
many phases of artistic and political de-
velopment. Most of Pilnyak's best work
was done before or during the revolu-
tion, but many post-revolutionary pieces
- including * Unextinguished Moon are
included in the volume. Among Olye-
sha's stories, which unfortunately aren't
dated, are also a few non-fictional se-
lections. (Actually, with Olyesha, it is
hard to tell the difference!)
Judging from these two books, Wash-
ington Square has a good thing going.
(Master and Margarita would have been
a real feather in their cap!) The books
of the series still in the offing promise
to be as good as the first. This could
be a matched set worth completing.
Miss Leighton is a third year student
majoring in Russian Civilization in the
College of the University of Chicago.

Continued from page three
The real intentions of this novel, how-
ever, are hidden behind the satire and
have to do with the Faustian tale of
the Master and his bargain with the
Devil. We know very little about the
Master except that he has written a
novel about Pontius Pilate which, be-
cause of its subject matter, was unac-
ceptable to the publishers. It is easy to
think of the Master in such abstract
terms as symbolizing the artistic con-
science. His deal with the Devil pro-
vides a sort of freedom of existence
(not unlike Bulgakov's status as an "in-
ternal emigre") in a hospital for the
mentally ill. The bargain is broken off
when, in an unselfish act, the Master
ends his novel by freeing Pontius Pi-
late from his Purgatorial torment of
guilt over Christ's cruxification. (The
reader may note the beautiful parallel
to this action when, as a reward for
hostessing Satan's ball, the Master's
lover Margarita is granted one request.
Despite her longing to see the Master
once again, she is compelled to request
the fulfillment of a plea made by one of
Satan's guests that they stop bringing

her the handkerchief with which she
smothered her baby.) Through Christ's
intercession, the Master and Margarita,
although not granted salvation for them-
selves, are allowed to spend eternity in
euphoric peace.
But with this victory the novel does
not end. Bulgakov continues, talking into
account the fate of one young poet, Ivan
Dezdomny (Homeless), the Master's foil.
He too has been driven to the insane
asylum by the Devil, where he meets
the Master and becomes totally involved
in the form of modern psychiatry which
cows his spirit and, metaphorically, de-
stroys his belief in the guilt of Pontius
Yet, despite all this, Bulgakov's bitter-
ness cannot last. The note of optimism
keeps pushing its way in, for at every
full moom, Ivan is troubled, restless,
and his thoughts turn back to Pontius
Pilate until he is administered the pla-
cating injection.
In the Devil's own words, "Everything
will turn out right. That's what the
world is built on."
Miss Mock is a Russian major at the
College of Wooster.






of the


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for things desired or available; personal services;
literary or publishing offers; miscellaneous items
of interest to our readers. Rates for a single inser-
tion: 15c per word, six insertions 10c per word.
Box $2.00 flat. Address Classified Department, Chi-
cago Literary Review, 1212 E. 59th St., Chicago,
Illinois 60637.



stories and novels now accepted - ABYSS Magazine,
110 marvay st., Dunkirk, New York, 14048.
ing novels, short stories, articles, plays, etc. New
writers welcomed. Send scripts now for free read-
ing and evaluation report to Dept. 112, Authors
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Love and Other Stories, by Yuri
Olyesha. Washington S q u a r e
Press. $4.95.
The Tale of the Unextinguished
Moon, by Boris Pilnyak. Wash-
ington Square Press. $4.95.
by Mary Sue Leighton
In honor of the Soviet Union's fiftieth
anniversary, Washington Square is offer-
ing a commemorative collection-- The
Russian Library-bound appropriately
in red. Given that the narrowly-con-
ceived "soc realism" which alone is al-
lowed in the U.S.S.R. rarely appeals to
the liberal taste of the Western reader,
one might suspect that mass transla-
tion of recent Soviet stuff is financial
suicide. Aside from Russian civilization
majors and local Communists, who
cares about the trials of an aspiring
factory manager.
Cleverly avoiding the pitfalls of too
gross political overtones, Washington
Square has selected some pretty amaz-
ing writers who at once reflect an ac-
curate picture of times and show the
Everyman in homo Sovieticus. To be
sure, the stories are often commentar-
ies on the times, but the characters and
plots do not have the strained, defensive
tone that plagues modern Russian liter-
Yuri Olyesha came from a typical
bourgeois Jewish family that apparently

survived revolutions without becoming
less typical or bourgeois. His papa, an
excise inspector, pushed him to become
aA; engineer - he was at the head of
his class - but Olyesha took a look at
the drawing kit presented to him one
year on his birthday, pricked his finger
on the tip of the compass, and refused.
(The compass stars later in his most
famous novel, Envy.)
The title story is an insane, barely
controllable farce about a young man
named Shuvalov who is either waiting
in the park for Lelia or isn't. He's not
quite certain - and neither is anyone
else. To a fellow who may be sitting
next to him on the bench (if Shuvalov
is on the bench at all), he explains that
he sees things that aren't there. In fact,
the whole scene is like a brief intensely
colorful and significant trip - the poor
fellow has been mainlining love.
Olyesha pursues the same theme in
"The Cherry Stone," and comes up with
a treatment equally mad. Fedya stands
on a streetcorner waiting for Natasha,
who never comes, and participates in
events that happen (maybe) on the
street or (more likely) in his mind. Af-
ter awhile, the distinction becomes ir-
Envy, a tale which takes up half the
book, is like a cross between the Mad
Hatter's Tea Party and a satire by
Zoshchenko. There are five main char-
Continued on page ten

The Master and Margarita, by
Mikhail Bulgakov, translated by
Mirra Ginsburg. Grove Press.
by Martha Mock
Every so often in the Soviet Union,
when the people's solidarity is judged
strong enough to digest it without
shocking the system, a little substance
and flavor are added to the pablum
of modern Soviet literature. Such is the
posthumous publication of an important
satirical novel The Master and Margari-
ta by newly-rehabilitated Mikhail Bulga-
Bulgakov, thankfully, rarely serves us
anything from the usual potatoes and
cabbage bill of fare of socialist realism.
Even in censored form his tantalizing
satire reaches beyond the accustomed
taste of "samo-critica" (the officially
sanctioned brand of innocuous self-criti-
cism which never presumes to question
the authority of the party itself) to the
meaty, problematic, and often heretical
realm of philosophic speculation. The
most generally noted deviation of The
Master and Margarita is the comple-
mentary novel within the novel on the
heretofore unheard-of religions theme of
Christ's passion-the gospel according to
the Master.
Bulgakov belongs to those writers of
the twenties were known by Trotsky's
nomenclature as the "fellow trave-
lers." At the beginning of Stalin's reign,
many of 'these writers were silenced.
Bulgakov, like Zamyatin, was one of a
handful of men who refused to recant
or compromise their works so that they
might be published. Written between
1929 and Bulgakov's death in 1940, The
Master and Margarita is underlaid b y
the affirmation of the exceptional cour-
age required to live honestly under Sta-
lin's tyranny. Even today, the Moscow
censor has deleted the most important
and the most dangerous last words of
Christ, "Cowardice is one of the great-
est sins."
Before Stalin, however, when some in-
credibly fine creative work was being
done especially in prose fiction, Bulga-
kov joined with a group of his con-
temporaries calling themselves the Sera-
pion Brothers. He is usually considered
a minor author by comparison. The ap-
pearance of this novel and others to
come may help to change that opinion.
The Serapion Brothers declared them-
selves absolutely free to experiment.
Their subject matter, however, almost
without exception tended to focus on
post-revolutionary Russia. In Bulgakov's
novel the results are tumultuous.
Through an unaccountable shift in real-

ity, the
ness, d
cer, is
boy co
good ni
ic kind
step oi
like th
tunes s
ble of
ing int
up agai
kov's s
are th
ters of
lost on
ture is
one to
the elit
It w
to conv
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The ef
The Ma
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the Deg
to impl
satire t
of the i
et mar
this sor



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10 " CHICAGO LITERARY REVIEW " December, 1967

December, 1967 9 CHICAGO

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