Satire and the fantastic, vital literary genres in the 1920s, are often thought to have fallen victim to the official adoption of socialist realism. Eric Laursen contends that these subversive genres did not just vanish or move underground. Instead, key strategies of each survive to sustain the villain of socialist realism. Laursen argues that the judgment of satire and the hesitation associated with the fantastic produce a narrative obsession with controlling the villain’s influence. In identifying a crucial connection between the questioning, subversive literature of the 1920s and the socialist realists, Laursen produces an insightful revision of Soviet literary history.
INTRODUCTION: SCROUNGING IN THE SOVIET GARBAGE PIT 1A New Paradigm 2Recycling Toxic Heroes 5CHAPTER 1: WRITING A PRECARIOUS BALANCE 11Organizing the Human Psyche 13Superfluous Men in Utopia: Aleksandr Bogdanov’s Red Star (1908) 15An Impossible Equilibrium: Evgeny Zamyatin’s We (1920) 27Dystopian Fear 38CHAPTER 2: HE DOES NOT LOVE US WHEN WE ARE DIRTY 40Hygienic Satire 42"Bad Words Are Not Allowed": Mikhail Bulgakov’s Heart of a Dog (1925) 43 Monstrous Words 53Unmasking Satire: Vladimir Mayakovsky’s Bedbug (1929) 55The Death of Satire? 65CHAPTER 3: THINGS THAT SHOULD NOT BE FOUND 68Hygienic Narration 70Unreliable Narrators: Yury Olesha’s Envy (1927) 73The Non-toxic Writer 85Remapping the Alien Imagination: Lev Kassil’s Shvambraniia (1932) 88An Image Can Kill 106CHAPTER 4: LOST IN TRANSLATION 110Constructing a New Voice 113Translating the Villainous Voice: Fedor Gladkov’s Cement (1925) 115Party-mindedness & the Socialist-realist Text 126Rewriting the Writer: Valentin Kataev’s Time Forward (1932) 129The Writer as Telegraph Operator 142 CONCLUSION: WRITERS FORWARD! 146Really Real Men, or Apologies for the Elephant 148NOTES 151
“…adds to the significant body of scholarship that, in the wake of Katerina Clark’s seminal The Soviet Novel: History as Ritual (1981), has confirmed both the complexity and the cultural significance of socialist realism. Rather than focusing on the movement’s larger-than-life heroes, as Clark did, Eric Laursen turns to its villains to explore nuances in the spontaneity-consciousness dialectic that reveal the enemy’s pivotal position in the archetypal socialist realist plot: ‘If the hero accomplishes the great deed that moves Soviet society closer to Communism, the villain’s example transforms the hero so that he can imagine this bright future and act to bring it about’.” —Slavic Review
"Spanning science fiction, theatrical satire, and the production novel, Laursen’s eclectic choice of literary works brings about an equally eclectic approach, combining close textual reading with a more far-reaching consideration of the evolution of satire and the fantastic in early Soviet letters. Laursen’s decision to focus almost exclusively on literary texts departs from the recent trend in scholarship on socialist realism . . . Laursen’s study will find its readership among historians and scholars of early Soviet literature." —Slavic Review