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October 06, 1968 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily, 1968-10-06

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Sunday, October 6, 1968

THE MICHIGAN DAILY

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By PHIL BALLA

Letters to Georgian Friends, by Boris
Pasternak, tr. by David Magarshack. Har-
court, Brace, and World, $4.95.
Contemporary events for many University
students pose a serious problem. The war,
hippies, student activists, monolithic political
machinery, assassinations of national leaders,
and Black Power hatred all combine to ques-
tion the underlying health of the American
Way. Is there an alternative value system to
be sought and found?
When the 1917 Revolution came to Russia,
her artists and intellectuals responded to it
with all the hope of launching a new and life-
giying society. During the war the world's art
capital shifted from Paris to Moscow. There
may not have been any bread in Moscow but
there was Mayakovsky on a cafe table top
reciting poetry with a spoon in his lapel.
When the government measured public order
in terms of the number of workers killed on
the Bratsk Railway, futurists measured a
successful poetry reading in terms of the riot
that followed. If before the revolution artists
were thrilled with Pavlov driving his dog
crazy, after the revolution artists were busy
riding trains full of art out to awaken the
peasantry to culture and the new society.
A decade later the great laboratory arts
of constructivism, neo-rayonism, and cubo-
futurism had been disbanded. Kandinsky,
Pevsner, and Malevich were expatriots. Es-
senin had written his last poem in his own
blood and hanged himself. Within another
decade poets Mayakovsky, Marina Tsvetana,
and Paolo Yashvili were suicides. Prose writer
Pilnyak and poet Titian Tabidze disappeared
in the purges of 1936-37. The great director
Eisenstein had not completed a film for eight
years and was sent to a rest home. One of
the leading prerevolutionary artist did survive.
He was a poet who had once been close to
Mayakovsky but by 1920 was unable to either
accept the flippancies of the day or support
himself by his writing' and consequently left
.. after'

the artistic movement to retire into interior
Russia.
Boris Pasternak was thereafter all but for-
gotten during the '30's and '40's. Contem-
porary poet Andrei Vosnesensky recalls how
his mother used to read him Pasternak's early
poetry, but most of his colleagues referred to
him as "that translator." The dramatic ap-
pearance of Dr. Zhivago in the mid '50's came
to the West as a windfall from the dark
recesses of the Cold War. Very little was
known about the once famous poet who
seemed consigned to oblivion for two decades.
Letters to Georgian Friends is a recent col-
lection of 67 letters that Pasternak wrote
between 1931= and 1959. Much of the book is
shop talk between writers. Many of the letters
are unpolished and hurried; more artful ex-
pressions of his love for art and 'omen can
be found in any of his poems. It gives a good
impression of his everyday activities during
the silent years when he was not allowed to
publish his own work but lived off his trans-
lations of Shakespeare, Goethe, Rilke, Ver-
laine, and the Georgian poets. For those peo-
ple who were taken back by Stalin's daugh-
ter's gushing "That's how it was!" identifi-
cation with Dr. Zhivago, Letters to Georgian
Friends reveals not only how Pasternak came
to temper his style, but also it reveals the all
too real events that, as he says, ". . . deter-
mined my views, my attitude towards the
time we live in and towards its chief repre-
sentatives, and my future."
From his earliest days Pasternak inclined
toward mysticism. During the wild anticipa-
tions of futurism and the free-for-all as-
semblages of imagism, his own tendencies
were towards a free reign of the imagination.
In a 1957 letter he wrote, "In 1917 and 1918
I wrote down only what by the character of
the language or by the turn of phrase seemed
to escape me entirely of its own accord, in-
voluntarily . . ." The increasing selectivity
of his late poetry arose directly out of his
acquaintance with Georgian poetry. Visiting
Georgia and the Caucasus for the first time
in 1931. he found that Tiflis life ". . . was full

of mysticism and the messianic symbolism of
folk legends which are so favorable to the life
of the imagination." Vitality, spaciousness,
and vividness he found there closely bound
"to the treasures of the Georgian language"
and "an untouched store of spiritual reserves."
He wrote, "Georgian colloquial speech is still
permeated by survivals of old sayings and
traces of forgotten popular beliefs. Many
Georgian idioms owe their origins to the
ritualistic peculiarities of the ancient pagan
and new Christian calendar."
At the same time that Pasternak was dis-
covering the possibilities for personal expres-
sion in the repositories of folk sayings and
religious traditions, most of his Russian coun-
terparts were trying to toe the line to the
dictums of Socialist Realism and were achiev-

ing not only sterility but an atr
political accountability. Silent ar
preoccupied with translationsc
poets, Pasternak was bypassed in
which took the lives of those ve
influenced him most.
Titian Tabidze was one of th
in the purges. Titian introduce
to Tiflis life both figuratively a
for it was in the Tabidze home th
refuge with his wife-to-be in 193
had no other roofs over their h
Titian who by personal exams
to Pasternak the poets of Geor
close bound there between imag
"the beauties of some saying or
some proverb."
"Essential to my existence,"
wrote, "Titian is to me the best n
to follow in my own life."
Tiflis through Titian Tabidze ce
not just the picturesque back
sounds of tambourines, and nigi
with bright stars, scents from flo
houses, gardens, and confectioner
was southern life just the lyri
that Titian himself spun in verse
talk end parties. As Pasternak
Tabidzes in 1933, "To understand
different world, a, completely di
and way of life-that is not a
places or moments or even of Ti
perhaps of the earth: it is an a
chance to a close participation ir
of history and in its future; it is
never ending love story."
In early 1936 the Union of So
met to debate formalism and soci
Only weeks before the Soviet fi
met with similar intentions ,an
great director Eisenstein up to pi
rassment for his intellectual pre
Writing to Titian about,"the criti
porridge which people have, been
ly gulping down for over a month
urged him, "Don't believe in solut
in revolution as a whole, believe it

Pasternak...
mosphere of the new promptings of your heart. the spec-
nd obscurely tacle of life. and not the constructions put
of Georgian on things by the Union of Soviet Writers."
i the purges In 1937 the great purges swept away those
ry men who writers who had shown Pasternak the folk
styles and liturgical purpose of his southern
ose executed treasures. His personal hero was gone. Many
d Pasternak were committing suicide. To Titian's widow
.nd literally, Pasternak wrote, "But courage, dear Nina! I
at he found want you to live. It's important to me that
0 after they you should live. I need you in order to keep
eads. It was my senses, to bring our common answer to its
ple revealed conclusion, to endure all."
gia and the To Titian's daughter, Nieta. he urged her
ination and to hold dear her father's -treasures. In an-
subtlety of other letter he said, "how much of him there
remains in what he touched and what he
Pasternak did." In all these letters can be seen the great
kodel I'd like themes of Dr. Zhivago, the metaphors
of cosmic intercourse, the bittersweet chalice
ame to mean of life drunk and spiralling into the patterns
lanes, the of fate, sacrificial history. When officially ac-
htimes filled cepted Soviet writ'ers were describing the
)wers, coffee glass-eyed heroism of building the new order,
's shops. Nor Pasternak was too involved with real life to
c tapestries mimic the hysteria of building new steel
and in free works or dam projects.
wrote the "Morally, you are almost a heroine." he
a completely wrote to Nita Tabidze, "you are part of heroic
fferent style history . . , It is only the hope to see part
question of of your dazzling future-vital, many-sided.
flis, or' even abounding in all sorts of events, morally
dmission by justified and boundless as far as spiritual
n the affairs values are concerned-that makes us, worn
a boundless, out and old as we are, hang on to life and
desire it and value it in any of its forms."
\ For a generation of students who must
viet Writers have something to believe in before they will
al relevance. believe, for a generation of students who seek
lm industry to substitute a value system with inactivity
d held the or activism, Letters to Georgian Friends offers
ublic embar- no encouraging sign. "Don't believe in solu-
occupations. tions, iTitian! . . . Dig more deeply with your
cal semolina drill without fear or favour, but inside your-
so touching- self, inside. If you do not find the people. the
," Pasternak earth and the heaven there, then give up your
ions. Believe search, for then there is nowhere else to
n the future, search."

Pasternak: 'No solutions'

his countrymen engineered

the revolution

By BRUCE LEVINE
Revolutionary Silhouettes, by
Anatoly V. Lunacharsky, tr. by
Michael Glenny, with an intro-
duction by Isaac Deutscher.
Hill and Wang, $5.00.
Like Lenin, A. V. Lunacharsky
was born into minor Russian
nobility; he grew up, however,
in an atmosphere of much great-
er sophistication and much more
pronounced radicalism. Luna-
charsky became a revolutionary
Marxist early,) and spent the
next few years serving the cus-
tomary terms of self-imposed
and then state-imposed exile.
(During the latter period, the
police guards found it necessary
to keep this young man from
moving, since his prolonged pre-
sence in any one community al-
most guaranteed the establish-
ment there of a Marxist cell.)
Witll his term of exile com-
pleted, Lunacharsky plunged
back into revolutionary politics.
In and out of the Bolshevik
party, he eventually joined with
Trotsky, Uritsky, and Ryaza-
nov in the so-called "Inter-dis-
trict Committee": a group of
some 4,000 workers and profes-
sional revolutionaries which

fused with the Bolsheviks

in

February, 1917. After the Octo-
ber Revolution Lunacharsky be-
came People's Commissar for
Education, spending most of his
time defending the freedom of
the arts from the heavy hand of
the already-growing Stalinist
bureaucracy. With the subse-
quent death of Lenin, the rise
of Stalin, and the exile of his
comrade, Trotsky, Lunacharsky
withdrew more and more from
the political arena, turning in-
stead to his other love, literary
criticism. At 59, he died.
Revolutionary Silhouettes was.
first published in 1919. It reap-
peared, with minor stylistic revi-
sions, in 1923 and '24 and then
disappeared until 1965-when it
"reappeared" in completely
truncated form. The 1923 edi-
tion (from which the current
edition is translated) included
biographies of most of the revo-
lutionary leaders. But no Stalin.
Neither in the 1919, the 1923,
nor the 1924 editions was there
any profile of the Gbneral Se-
cretary of the Party. Elsewhere,
Bertram Wolfe attributes the
gap to an oversight: "in 1923
it still occurred to no one to con-
sider the latter (Stalin) as a fig-
ure of the first rank." Isaac

Deutscher, in his introduction to
this edition, explains that this
"oversight," among other things,
served to keep the book off Rus-
sian presses and shelves for 40
years.
This is a short book (150
pages) dealing with 10 indivi-
duals during turbulent times. In
it, Lunacharsky rightfully makes
no-pretension to adequacy, much
less exhaustiveness. If you are
looking for a good introduction,
to Russian revolutionary history,
search elsewhere. Without some
background, you will not under-
stand much of what is written
here. If you want a general idea
of how and where the great men
of the Revolution joined and
clashed, find another book.
Much of Lunacharsky is anec-
dotal and politically irrelevant.
If you hope to find here some
new insight into the mechanics
of revolutionary organization,
despair.
And now, having clearly de-
fined what the book is not, I re-
alize I ought to explain just
what it is. And that is not easy.
Lunacharsky had the same
problem: "These are not biogra-
phies, not testimonials, not por-
traits but merely profiles: it is
their virtue and at the same

time their "limitation that they
are entirely based on personal
r e c o 11 e ctions. Revolutionary
Silhouettes is, in fact, little more
than a string of memories of the
great (Lenin, Trotsky, Martov,
Plekhanov and Zinoviev), the
1 e s s e r (Uritsky, Volodarsky,
Sverdlov) and the perhaps fitt-
ingly obscure (Bessalko and Ka-
linin).
There is another problem:
reading the book today one re-
alizes that it has already pro-
vided source material for the
now-standard texts on its sub-
jects. Lunacharsky's Lenin is no
stranger: a powerful though
monotonous speaker, a man of
an iron will capable nevertheless
of warmth and humor. Trotsky,
too, is familiar: Brilliant, arro-
gant, selfless (yet, in a strange
"historical" sense, vain), poor
when wheeling-and-dealing but
magnificent when allowed to
wade into the turbulent social
currents he understood so well.
And Zinoviev (Lenin's trusted
henchman). And Plekhanov (the
rigidly orthodox "Father of Rus-
sian Marxism"). Sverdlov, Volo-
darsky and ,Uritsky are almost
indistinguishable, and are in-
cluded, one guesses, to remind
the reader that the revolution

4',

Baez: .Not deep enough

to be subtle?

was made by more than three or
four master planners.
Martov, perhaps because he
generally receives less sympa-
thetic treatment, is here note-
worthy, This early comrade-in-
arms, later-arch-opponent of
Lenin's emerges in these pages
as a thoughtful, sometimes bril-
liant tragedy. Truly comfortable
only in the world of politics,
Martov's tragedy is his inability
to fit his political theory to the
needs of a Russia in revolution,
(And even as Lunacharsky wrote
that perhaps Martov might yet
"find himself" and "emerge as
one of the creative minds of the
new world," he received word of
Martov's death.)
One contribution which Re-
volutionary Silhouettes c a n
make is to pass on to us the
mood of the revolution and its
heroes. It can pass on insights,
comments,asides which, coming
from men who lived through
THE REAL THING, may be of
interest to those who today con-
sider themselves part of the re-
volytionary tradition - and,
more specifically, to the sub-
group which considers the Rus-
sian experience relevant. (To
those who believe that reality
and relevance were born when
they were, well . .)
There is today an element
among leftists whose conception
of the ideal revolutionary is the
one who makes the most noise,
weeps the biggest tears, screams
the loudest obscenities. Luna-
charsky's profile of the revolu-
tionary martyr Uritsky is appro-
priate: "He made fun of all
those eloquent speeches full of
pathos about the great and the
beautiful; he was proud of being
level-headed and was fond of
making play with it, even to the
point of, apparent cynicism, but
in fact he was an idealist of the
purest water. For him life out-
side the workers' did not exist.
His enormous political passion
did not seethe and bubble-sim-
ply because it was methodically
and systematically directed to
one end."
At least once in any meeting
of a Movement group one hears
that American workers are ra-
cists and therefore a lost cause
from a revolutionary's point of
view-that they are good only
for beating up students blacks
and Jews. For the purveyors or
such conventional wisdom, I re-
commend this historical paral-
lel: Lunacharsky relates how the
revolutionary movement in Rus-
sia had as its foundation men
such as the "soldier or sailor
who only yesterday belonged to
the Jew-baiting 'Black Hundred'
gangs, who is now prepared to
risk his tousled head for the
'leader of the world revolution
-Ilyich (Lenin)'."
This last reference is the
heart of the book, of the Rus-

By JEREMY JOAN HEWES

Daybreak, by Joan Baez.
The ,ial Press, $3.95.
The August morning when the
world learned that Russia had
occupied Czechoslovakia was a
time of shock and fearful spec-
ulation for most people. What-
ever the effect of the news on
-W Joan Baez, that day was not an

unusual one for her. She had
been instrumental in organiz-
ing a five-day marathon of folk
and rock performances to raise
money for Biafran relief after
an early morning appearance
there she led demonstrations at
the U.N. to protest the Soviet
action. That afternoon she ar-
ranged for other artists (among
them Richie Havens, Pete Seeg-
er, Joni Mitchell, Tim Hardin,

Judy Collins) to entertain at
St. Mark's-in-the-Bowery, where
round-the-clock music was in-
terrupteo only for evening
prayer services. That night she
gave two more shows to a full
"congregation," few of whom
had attended vespers.
Until Miss Baez arrived, the
sickening heat and sickening
world seemed oppressive. But
somehow she was cool and se-
rene, and her voice softened the
collective weight of anguish.
Soon the sanctuary was filled
with hundreds of voices:
"Someone's singing, Lord, Kum-
baya ...,
She spoke with ironic humor
of Russia-"It's nice to know
someone -else is as evil as we
are"; and with simple eloqu-
erge of the desperate need to
keep 6000 Biafran children from
dying each day. Her beauty lent
grace to those who watched, and
her songs could not be sepa-
rated from the reason she sang
that evening.
It's curious. Because she has
long been such a public, active,
dedicated person and has spoken
so well in leadership and in
song, Joan Baez has seemed to
invite those of us who watch
her, to draw conclusions about
her. And we, of course, could not
resist trying to imagine what
moves her' and gives her such
gentle, special powers. It's cur-
ious, because her "journal,"
Daybreak, shakes the founda-
tions of our suppositions with-
out really replacing or adding
miuch substance to them.
There are two reasons why
Daybreak leaves the reader rest-
less, and perhaps thinking he
knew more when he started than

relation to these people, the
dates and places of her birth
and the family's moves, and so
forth, but we know only what
she has chosen to tell us.
This is not to say that the
moments, personalities and feel-
ings she relates are uninterest-
ing. Oh the contrary, she de-
scribes some things of impor-
tance and tells them well, such
as her vivid portrayal of the ex-
treme nervous nausea that
plagued her growing years.
The best chapters of Day-
break are devoted to four men
who have deeply affected her
life, though the author doesn't
say so. Bob Dylan is not men-
tioned by name, but depicted as
"the dada king" who "put us
all on . . . until he broke his
heart in public."' Ira Sandperl
is a Quaker teacher who intro-
duced her to Gandhi's thought,
travels with her and runs her
Institute for Non-Violence.
Her husband, David Harris,
who also remains unnamed in
the journal, is "a very young
spiritual monarch" and she is
"his woman." She most complet-
ly captures, however, her sister
Mimi's late husband, Richard
Farina. He was "the Black Irish
Mad Hatted Rose," who clown-
ed everyone into his fantastic
imaginary world, who spoke
poems and started salad fights
at the dinner table.
Certainly other elements of
her life are mentioned - ac-
counts of prison, dreams, medi-
tation and an argument for
pacifism. But apparently Miss

Baez has intentionally left much
to the reader's deduction, yet
has not given much from which
to deduce.
That is the other reason for
the uneasiness. Simply, we learn
a good deal about Joan Baez in
Daybreak, but we don't come to
know her there. This fact is
less regrettable from rigorous
literary standards - which we
have no reason to demand from
her-than from the \resulting
dichotomy between what Miss
Baez tells us and what she
clearly is. Perhaps she knows-
herself so well as to be extreme-
ly subtle; perhaps,-on the other
hand,. she has not gone far
enough into herself to be subtle
at all.
In person - singing, talking,
being - Joan Baez is both a
beautiful voice and a. serene
presence: in Daybreak, some-
how she is not quite either.
Today's writers ..
PHIL BALLA is a senior in
the literary college Who con-
siders writing about Pasternak
"a labor of love."
SGC Vice President BRUCE
LEVINE, a sophomore, is ac-
tive in Voice-SDS and an avid
student of the Russian Revolu-
tion.
JEREMY JOAN HEWES ist
a regular reviewer for the Book
Page. She is a graduate student
in the American Culture Pro-I
gram.

Trotsky: 'Hid
sian Revoluti n-the possibility
of all broad-uased revolution in
an industrialized country: the
ability of the working people to
throw out their misplaced hos-
tilities towards other similarly-
oppressed groups and to recog-
nize who truly are their'enemies
and who are their allies. The
Russian Revolution was-the ex-
pression in one country of that
need and struggle for liberation
which, periodically, can be cool-
ed, tempered, misdirected-but
never'quieted until liberation is
actually achieved. It broke to the
surface in Russia and died in
isolation, when all it could de-
pend upon for defense from its
enemies was a new, domestical-
ly-based bureaucrazy-its future
nmurderer.
'The lesson to be learned from
Russia is simply the possibility
of the working people taking
power. Whit we have yet to
prove is their ability to keep it
and use it well.

storicaily' vain

'1

PPAULSEN
FOR
PRESIDENT!I

"We have nothing to fear
but fear itself . . and the
boogy man."
Support this simple savior
of America's destiny. Buy
his official, profusely illus-
trated campaign manual-
biography-platform - at
bookstores now. $2.95-

FAused to be for Apple.
Now it's for
Annihilate!

I i >fF GIR (C1 IF 0'

+R

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