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February 02, 1964 - Image 7

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The Michigan Daily, 1964-02-02
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A PRECOCIOUS AUTOBIOGRAPHY, by
Yevgeny Yevtushenko, translated from
the Russian by Andrew R. MacAndrew,
E. P. Dutton & Co., Inc., 1963, 124
pages, $3.50.
THE WRITING of an autobiography
presents many problems even for the
oldest and most experienced of authors.
For a young poet, thirty years of age, and
a critic of post-Stalinist Russia, the task
becomes exceedingly more complex.
Fortunately, Yevgeny Yevtushenko, the
young Russian poet who meets this de-
scription, realizes the inherent dangers
of autobiography. In his book, "A Preco-
cious Autobiography," he has been able to
avoid most of them. He understands how
a work must fail if the author is not
honest in his selection of material:
An autobiography is meaningless if
it is only an account of the events in
a man's outward life and not also an
account of his interior life-of his
thoughts and feelings. He knows that
when a writer hesitates to tell the
whole truth, or at least those truths
relevant to his "interior" life and
the formation of his character he has
lied to himself and his readers.
In only a few instances does Yevtus-
henko fail to select his material honestly
and present his readers all the facts con-
cerning it.
Yet the book's failures are small in
comparison to its successes. One such
success is the title itself, for it provides
the key to understanding Yevtushenko
and his early autobiographical work.
That key is locked in the word precocious,
precocity defining the basic paradox be-
tween youth and maturity. This paradox
may be the essential element of the book,
for the clashes between the youth and
maturity of the author are evident in
abundance.
On the youthful side of the scale, Yev-
tushenko has some difficulty in express-
ing basic principles he believes true. His
attempts to do so are self-conscious and
awkward. Basic principles awkwardly ex-
pressed become mere cliche regardless of
the author's sincerity in expressing them,
Yevtushenko falls prey to this trap for
the sincere young writer when he says,
"The word 'peace' can have a concrete
meaning only for those who know what
war is" and "Before you can have any-
thing to say, you must learn to listen."
Yet clearly weighted against these
cliche figures, and perhaps overbalanc-
ing them in the final evaluation, is the
author's mature prose style. Its freshness
and delicacy underscore the fact that
Yevtushenko is first a poet, then an auto-
biographer.
If "A Precocious Autobiography" were
to be evaluated simply as the serious prose
work of a serious young poet, it would be
favorably placed among similar portraits
of artists as young men. Certainly the
work must first be classified on this level.
But Yevtushenko's book is more than
the self-portrait of a young artist. It is
a mature and artistic explication of the
Russian people and their suffering. With
a compassion that never stoops to senti-
ment or self-pity, Yevtushenko explains
his people:
. . . Our special Russian character
must be kept in mind. Suffering is
a sort of habit with us. What seems
nearly unendurable to others we en-
dure more easily.
Besides, we have paid for our ideal
with so much blood and torment that
the cost itself has endeared it and
made it more precious to us, as a
child born in pain is more precious
to its mother.
At the same time that it is an explan-
ation of the Russian character, "A Preco-
cious Autobiography" is the story of the
current thaw in the supression of Rus-
sian literature told by a Russian artist
whose sensitive ear is tuned to the echoes
of the political in art.
Page Eight

Evaluated on this plane, "A Precocious assume that evolution also yielded dif-
Autobiography" becomes an even larger ferences in inherited mental character-
work. Some of Yevtushenko's brass ego- istics-such as the innate components of
tism losses its edge when he explains: intelligence?

To a Russian the word "poet" has
overtones of the word "fighter." Rus-
sia's poets were always fighters for
the future of their country and for
justice. Her poets helped Russia to
think. Her poets helped Russia to
struggle against her tyrants.
Yevtushenko's self-righteous approach to
his own poetry steps into proper per-
spective as he makes clear the typical
Russian attitude toward social criticism:
Lenin once said that our enemies
would always eat the crumbs of self-
criticism that fall from our table. In
fact, they clearly do. But what are
we to do to stop them? Keep silent
about our mistakes, about the fail-
ings of our society? A strong man is
not afraid of showing his weaknesses.
I believed then and I believe now in
the spiritual strength of our people
and I therefore regard it as my duty
to speak openly about whatever I
think is wrong. This precisely is my
way of expressing my love for the
people and my unlimited trust in
them.
In this context, "A Precocious Autobiog-
raphy" outgrows the limits of mere in-
trospection. It becomes the conscience
of a nation that is only now experiencing
the thaw of an icy restriction of the arts.
Written in the spring of the thaw, Yev-
tushenko's work is precocious indeed, and,
as precocity usually infers, somewhat
remarka ble. --Louise Lind
THE SOUTHERN CASE FOR SCHOOL SEG-
REGATION by James Jackson Kilpatrick.
New York: the Crowell-Collier Press,
1962. 220 pp. $3.95.
It would be easy and comfortable to
point out the holes in the "Southern
Case." There are enough to fill a respect-
ably long review; a sufficiently deter-
mined liberal could find enough to dis-
miss Kilpatrick without a second thought.
But in a Northern publication, most of
whose readers pay at least lip service to
the concept of racial equality, it's per-
haps more important to dwell on this
Southern journalist's stronger points. If
the advocate of civil rights will lay aside
his desire to brand its author a bigot, he
will find in the "Southern Case" some
valuable insights into the Southern
white's values and reasoning-and a sub-
stantial intellectual challenge to his own.
Kilpatrick's major themes-racial dif-
ferences, practical barriers to true inte-
gration, states' rights and the evils of the
1954 school segregation verdict - are
nothing new; they are, in fact, the same
arguments with which Mississippi Gov-
ernor Ross Barnett won contempt when
he spoke at the University recently. But
in the reasonable and careful prose of
Kilpatrick's essay they are a little harder
to laugh off.
The "racial differences" theme is the
most disturbing. The foundation of the
civil-rights movement is the assumption
that innate differences between Negroes
and whites are limited to superficialities
such as color and facial features; their
inborn intellectual potential is assumed to
be equal.
But, Kilpatrick reminds us, this is only
an assumption. With no conclusive proof
either way, the Southerner is equally en-
titled to his basic assumption: that the
Negro race, as a group, is innately in-
ferior to the white race-and therefore
should not be forced upon unwilling
whites under a false banner of "equality."
Kilpatrick offers some circumstantial
evidence that the Southerner may be
right:
-The people of Africa were separated
from the people of Europe long enough to
produce innate differences in their cut-
ward appearance. Isn't it reasonable to

-"From the dawn of cvilization to the
middle of the twentieth century, the
Negro race, as a race, has contributed no
more than a few grains of sand to the
enduring monuments of mankind," Kil-
patrick asserts. Was Africa's failure to
develop a civilization merely a trick of
fate-or did the Africans lack the intel-
ligence to advance themselves beyond a
primitive hunter culture?
-Intelligence tests, even when correct-
ed in every conceivable way for social,
educational and economic factors, still
show whites, as a group, well ahead of
Negroes. Can we, Kilpatrick asks, con-
fidently attribute these substantial dif-
ferences simply to the psychological rav-
ages of discrimination-or do they point
to innate differences?
So "if these Negro characteristics are
innate, the white Southerner sees noth-
ing but disaster to his race in risking an
accelerated intermingling of blood lines.
And even if these Negro characeristics
are not innate, the white Southerner
wants no intimate association with them
anyhom. And he is determined not to let
his children be guinea pigs for any man's
social experiment."
Unfortunately, in his hard-headed de-
termination to stick to the "facts," Kil-
patrick fails to face the moral questions
these "facts" raise. Suppose Negroes, as
a group, are innately inferior by various
criteria. What does this do to an indi-
vidual Negro's right to live, learn, marry,
work and worship where and with whom
he pleases? And what special privileges
should being a member of a superior
group confer upon the individual Cau-
casian?
Despite its shortcomings, the believer
in racial equality should give the "South-
ern Case" an openminded hearing-if not
to change his own views, at least to un-
derstand those of his segregationist ad-
versary. If the battle for civil rights is to
won, it must be won in the hard and skep-
tical world of the Kilpatricks-a world far
removed from that promised by the re-
assuring choruses of "We Shall Over-
come.,,
-Kenneth Winter
THE GRAPHIC ARTS OF THE NINETEENTH
CENTURY, by Claude Rogers-Marx, Mc-
Graw Hill, New York, 1963, 254 pp.
$6.95.
The original purpose of the Ford
Foundation Tamarind Workshop was a
three-year program to rescue the dying
art of lithography and to reestablish and
promote the technical mastery of the
medium. It seems impossible at first
glance that the most important technical
innovation in art of the last 200 years
would find itself in this position. '
But the twentieth century, and in par-
ticular the years since the end of World
War II have produced a fragmenting of
artistic movements. Gradually, the in-
dividual artists have directed themselves
toward such personal statements that
both communication and widely encom-
passing artistic philosophies have been
very vague.
The prerequisites for lithography to
flourish at this time are too much of a
burden for the loner to surmount (big
heavy presses, big heavy stones and a big
heavy floor to support all this.) In addi-
tion, the seeming inability of the artist
today to form any sort of a group-school-
movement, has made the self-conscious,
ever-evaluating Ford Foundation dip into
its fat trust like a magic good fairy. Poof,
a sparkling clean worshop with sparkling
clean printers not too far from Disney-.
land.
Will lithography die? Will Louis the
Fordteenth's patronage lead to a brave
and glorious art?
For background reading on this potent
question, McGraw Hill's The Graphic Arts

of the Nineteenth Century by Claude
Rogers-Marx is an admirable but labor-
ious survey of this period, its innovators
and innovations. Before 1800, the general
mass of prints, except for Rembrandt,
Durer and their like, were judged on their
details and faithfulness of reproduction.
With Goya's first great series of etchings,
"The Caprices" done in 1799, the nine-
teenth century realized the expressive
potentialities of the graphic arts. So be-
gan the renaissance of printmaking.
Corot, Gericault, Delacroix, Daumier,
Degas, Toulouse-Lautrec, Van Gogh,
Vuillard and Whistler-all these were in-
novators in the graphic arts, enlarging
the visual vocabularly of the artist and
creating a wider circulation of art for
the general public.
Mr. Rogers-Marx deals with the chron-
ological history of the artists and their
work, describing individual techniques
and their subsequent acceptance as rudi-
mentary tools in enlarging artistic de-
finitions. As far as the reproductions go,
the 152 in black and white are superb, the
16 in color dreadful.
By the way, the Museum of Art is
planning a show of prints produced at
Tamarind March 1.
-Robert Israel
RICHARD STRAUSS, Also Sprach Zara-
thustra, Lorin Maazel conducting the
Philharmonia Orchestra. ANGEL stereo
S135994, $5.98 (monaural 35994,
$4.98).
Reading British record reviews has its
undeniable advantages. For one thing,
they often contain reviews of records
which have not even been offered to
American reviewers-let alone consum-
ers-as yet. For another, by checking back
with the English magazines one discerns
such salient bits of information as the
fact that this particular version of "Also
Sprach Zarathustra" ("Thus Spake Zar-
athustra") is being issued in this country
minus the performance of "Till Eulen-
spiegel" coupled with it in Europe.
Accepting the fact that Maazel's Ameri-
can fans are automatically being short-
changed, then, what about the "Zara-
thustra"? No disappointment there-for
me, Maazel's edition of this master ex-
ample of orchestration easily transcends
its most obvious competition, the recent
recording by the late Fritz Reiner and the
Chicago Symphony Orchestra on RCA
Victor. The main difference between the
two versions is not merely one of tempo-
although Maazel is usually faster than
Reiner where this work is concerned-
but rather one of "spirit," as a direct
comparison between the two reveals.
Compare the introduction as set forth by
these respective conductors, for example,
and you will see that Reiner seems quite
tame here when compared to Maazel, es-
pecially when the tympani add their im-
pact to the coruscating climax of that
section of the work.
Or compare the respective "Dance-
Song" episodes, and see how pallid and
uninspired the Reiner version sounds.
Maazel, or rather his solo violinist (who
unfortunately is not mentioned on either
jacket or label), on the other hand, offers
a passionate and joyful performance of
this portion. In fact, wherever the tempo
is speeded up, it is Maazel who is more
dramatic; the Reiner record merely
sounds tired-both in the Science Fugue,
where such lethargy is no great sin, and
in the ensuing "Convalescent" episode,
where it adds up to a dull affair.
If you happen to prefer your "Zarathus-
tra" at a slower, more "majestic" pace,
Reiner's your man, especially since Vic-
tor's recorded sound is usually slightly
better than Angel's, particularly in cli-
maxes.
Those who elect the more vital Maazel
edition, however, will find both a magnifi-
cent performance and vivid sound make
the latter a sonic and musical experience
not to be missed.
-Steven Haller
THE MICHIGAN DAILY MAGAZINE

MAGAIZINE

Vol. V, No. 6

Sunday, February 2, 1964

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