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January 1967 - Image 14

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1967-10-00
Note:
This is a tabloid page

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Last of a well-recorded life

Post-War Years: 1945-1954, by Il-
ya Ehrenburg, translated by Ta-
tiana Shebunina and Y v o n n e
Kapp. World Publishing C o.
$6.50.
by Jane Duckett
Being a writer in post-revolu-
tion Russia has customarily been a
hazardous occupation. Mayakov-
sky opted for Russian roulette,
which he played persistently until
he lost. Pasternak secluded him-
self in an out-of-the-way country
home where he wrote into the
drawer in times of stress.
Ilya Ehrenburg, however, who
remained active in politics from
his adolescence until his death a
few months ago, not only survived
the purges in relative good health
(and this despite his Jewish an-
cestry) but amassed national
prizes and published volumes of
both fiction and non-fiction. One
who thrives in an atmosphere
great men have found intolerable
is naturally suspect--what price
the soul of a Soviet journalist?
This fifth and final reminis-
cence describing the decade after
World War II is something of a
testimony to the author's honesty.
Not crude propaganda, not meta-
physical musing, the book is sim-

ply a collection of cosmopolitan
anecdotes and the insights of a
man whose concerns are immedi-
ate and whose interests are di-
verse.
Once, in explaining the moral
or allegorical tone of many of his
works, C.S. Lewis said that his
own writing was after all simply a
reflection of his thinking, and
that he had no conscious intent to
instruct. His thoughts w e r e
shaped by his Christian outlook,
and came out with a rather Chris-
tian flavor. Perhaps Ehrenburg's
success is due to his honest love
of the fatherland and optimistic
view of his environment. He does
not seem to be given to manipu-
lating the forces of the universe,
or even wishing he could.
"Western journalists have ac-
cused . .. me of tendentious-
ness, of political bias, of subject-
ing the truth to narrow ideology,
and even to directives from high-
er up," Ehrenburg notes. "In
extenuation I may say that inner
inconsistencies and contradictions
of this kind have equally affected
many of my contemporaries; they
would appear to be inseparable
from our particular epoch." His
commitment to life is greater

than his commitment to any par-
ticular philosophy -he wouldn't
rather be dead than red!
Just as mere survival is depen-
dent on toeing the party line, con-
tinuing popularity is dependent
on winning and keeping the sup-
port of an audience raised on
Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, and Blok.
Ehrenburg was no Tolstoy, nor
did he have delusions to that ef-
fect. He was a journalist who dab-
bled in poetry, novels, and a little
diplomatic service. His style of
life was more akin to that of Hem-
ingway-at least in adventures-
than that of Mayakovsky.
His personal and official diplo-
macy made him a likely candi-
date for representing his country
abroad, and he was therefore sent
on goodwill tours all over the
world.

What makes the memoirs
pleasant reading is Ehrenburg's
openness to new places, peoples,
and ideas. In his trip to the United
States, for instance, he insists on
travelling through the South, to
see for himself the race situation.
Although it is fully as unjust as he
expected, he sees beyond that
single issue and finds much to
commend in the people he meets.
In Canada, in New York, in Paris,
in Poland he wanders away from
the tour guide and discovers the
"common man" whom he often
finds delightful, sometimes incom-
prehensible. He is neither quick to
approve nor to condemn-but
everything interests him and little
escapes his notice.
The sections on Paris read like
Hemingway's Moveable Feast--
the easy camaraderie crosses na-
tional ties. In fact, that is one of
the book's remarkable features: it
might have been written by any of
that group which gathered in Par-
is in the twenties. The attitude of
the author is not what one has
learned to expect from a Soviet-
approved source.
Miss Duckett is a third-year stud-
ent majoring in Russian civiliza-
tion at The University of Chica-
go.

The Exhibitionist by Henry Sut-
ton, Bernard Geis Associates,
$5.95, and The King by Morton
Cooper, Bernard Geis Associates,
$5.95.
by Jefferson Holden
Schnitzer IV
Only the desire to make a fast
buck could justify the publication
of these two novels. They are
written with the same uniform il-
literacy that marks television
soap-operas, and, like soap-op-
eras, they are virtually indis-
tinguishable.
Starting to read the book,
one is so literally nauseated by
the bad writing, the predictably
recurrent sex every twenty pages,
the silliness of all the book's cli-
ched premises, the shallowness
of the pop-Freud characters, that
one wishes to go and do some-
thing more esthetically pleasur-
able-slopping the hogs, perhaps.
As with television, however, one
can turn off part of one's mind,
forbid one's self to think about
the book at all, and skim on
through. To finish these novels,
though, it does help if one is gift-
ed with either strength or stu-
pidity.
No matter what this or any re-
view says about these books, hun-
dreds of thousands of people will
purchase and read them. The
idealized plowboy of Thomas Jef-
ferson's hope that the ordinary
American citizen would be cultur
ally fulfilled is not whistling
Beethoven-he's jacking off with
the kind assistance of Bernard
Geis Associates. For these books
are carefully designed to appeal
to a large chunk of the American
public. They are a slick blend of
s o f t- c o r e pornography and
schmaltz.
The Exhibitionist tells about a
matinee idol and who he goes to
bed with and his daughter and
how she grows up and who she
Mr. G and his
Philosophic porn
Pornografia, by Witold Gombro-
wicz, Grove Press. $5.
by Sophilnisba Schwartz
Mr. G., a Polish author now re-
siding in Argentina, has written a
novel about sensuality and evil -
areas that have not gone un-
explored recently in literature
(particularly by Grove Press).
Despite the fact that he has man-
aged to write a very unpleasant
book about unpleasant matters, a

book which partly succeeds in
leaving a sense of brooding in the
reader, G has not added very
much to this exploration. Some-
thing may have been lost in trans-

goes to bed with. The King tells
about a highly popular crooner
and who he goes to bed with and
how when he grows up he keeps a
racist senator from being nomin-
ated for President. The lives des-
cribed on the drably written pages
of these novels are posh, glamor-
ous enough, certainly, to make
thousands of housewives f o r k
over $5.95. All the beautiful peo-
ple hop in and out of bed, paired
off to satisfy nearly anyone's par-
ticular fantasy need. (What'll you
have, stranger? A little lesbian-
ism, perhaps, or some nympho-
mania, or some voyeurism, or
masochism, or incest, or homo-
sexuality? Or how about the good
old straight stuff? Just flip the
pages.)
Between the mattress scenes,
there is soul-searching dialogue;
one can tell it's soul-searching
because (1.) the author tells you
so; (2.) there are four letter
words; (3.) it's just like afternoon
television drama; (4.) all the

And there is narrative. I could
quote some, but I'm not much on
sadism.
Actually, these books are inter-
esting in that they show that the
"new sexual freedom" is furtive-
ly reaching the middle-aged. A
nice housewife still cannot go out
and buy straight porn, but no one
will condemn her for having nov-
els like these around the house.
Her life may be dull, but these
books allow her to dream of
things that, in earlier years, she
wasn't even supposed to think
about.
Another interesting thing about
these books is that they show
very precisely what America's
real problems are. First, the very
existence of books such as these
shows that a lot of people lead
very dreary lives, that they are
not particularly well informed or
educated, and that they are not

Talk dirty and get rich fast

V
t.

I

sexually
thinks a
exclude(
novels,
good li
real coi
is unhe
There is
of them
for the
always
there is
prisingl3
to have
of sexua
Of cour
adequac
tion of 1
are not
These
away fr
they tal
any imf
be stult
ions of A
them. B
ever, n
courses
ilization
Geis Ass

Boi rth control
Its dilemmas and debates.
Its advocates and
antagonists. Its methods
and techniques. Its impact
and its portents. A candid,
illuminating inquiry by
author Ernest Havemann.
Birth Control is a full
and factual exploration of a t
world-wide issue. 120 vital pages of 'r04 f6/1Iasius r ,dce
text, illusirated by 85 photographs, many , %
TIM E in color. Available now, $1.95
in soft cover wherever books and
BOOKS magazines are sold. (Hard cover, $3.95.)

The Hippies.
Cause for alarm?
Or approval?
Before you answer,
read The Hippies.
A searching examination of
America's bizarre new subculture
by the correspondents of TIME Magazine. This is the
first of a significant new series, TIME FILE Books,
which will report on the important and controversial
issues of our day.
The Hippies. 240 pages, including 13 pages of color
photography. Available now, $1.95 in soft cover
wherever books and magazines are sold. (Hard
.o0cm cover, $3.95.)

-A{ -, Xi.,I ----------
2haracters are secretly unhappy; deal of
5.) all of these; (6.) none of / ferson
hese.
\ V /Mr. ScI
student
-.
PR y~ Pi
?FUI

lation - the current edition is
translated from a French transla-
tion of the original Polish - but
it's doubtful.
The plot of Pornografia is an
obvious pawn in the hands of G's
philosophy. Set (for no particular
reason) in German-occupied Po-
land, it tells of two intellec-
tuals who manipulate two adoles-
cents into committing murder.
The intellectuals, one of whom
tells the story, do this to serve
their secret eroticism. "When the
Older creates the Younger," G
notes in his preface, "everything
works very well from a social and
cultural point of view. But if the
Older is submitted to the Younger

- what darkness! What perver-
sity and shame!" The adolescents,
you see, really control the intel-
lectuals, because being younger,
they are more sensual. (You do
see?)
At any rate, despite the vague
interest of G's ideas, and the evi-
dence, from time to time, that he
can write, his novel is dull, pre-
tentious, wordily intellectual, tur-
gid, often inadvertently silly, and
pointless. Pointless, because it is
difficult to imagine many readers
caring to wade through the sew-

age of G'
crumbly
would ha
three pag
Those
suggest
satisfacti
The onl
otherwise
novel is
mitting t
Pornogra
press ha
unknowr
that is i:
us as the
Mr. Sch
student
Brandeis

6 " CHICAGO LITERARY REVIEW

" October, 1967

October, 1967

+ CHICAGO LI'

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