Mikhail Zoshchenko--a 20th century Gogol'

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Mikhail Zoshchenko--a 20th century Gogol'

Post  pinhedz on Sat Apr 23, 2011 6:16 am

pinhedz
Sat Apr 24, 2010 6:35 pm

Mikhail Zoshchenko was one of those authors of the Soviet era that were educated before the revolution. So, not having the benefit of a Soviet education, they were not fully conditioned to behave only in the correct Soviet way. As a result, they were often found to be "in error" by the Soviet authorities.

Zoshchenko also suffered from clinical depression, which for long periods was so serious that it incapacitated him. He tried to diagnose and cure himself by studying. He studied Pavlov with particular attention.

During the Stalin era Zoshchenko wrote a book describing his quest to find a cure for his psychological condition. The book was called "Before Sunrise," and it was found to be erroneous by the authorities.

In "Before Sunrise," Zoshchenko describes using Pavlov's discoveries to heal himself. In the preface he writes "Man's behavior must be studied with the aid of the dog and the lancet." He explore's the connection between animal and human experience, and asks whether emotions are culturally conditioned or are like animal reflexes.

In his earlier short stories Zoshchenko had often depicted a distinction between illusory, culturally conditioned sentiments and visceral feelings, closer to animal reflexes. In one story a bourgeois artist is unable to cope with the changes in society that came about due to the revolution, and eventually is reduced to an animal-like existence--sniffing around in trash cans.

Zoshchenko reminds me very much of Nikolai Gogol'. Gogol' had not read Pavlov, but he had nevertheless made some of the same observations Zoshchenko makes in "Before Sunrise," but much earlier.

In one scene, Gogol' tells of a man whose wife had died many years earlier, who is served a type of meat pie made to a recipe very similar to one his wife used to use. The poor widower starts to cry as soon as he tastes it.

Gogol' then asks the question "What is stronger--love or habit?"


Eddie

pinhedz wrote:sniffing around in trash cans.
Nicolai Gogol's The Nose, adapted for operatic purposes by Shostakovich.


I like the sound of this 'New Gogol' geezer, Pinz. Where should I start reading his work?


pinhedz

From looking around on the web, it looks like the real question is what works by Zoshchenko are available in English?

There's what looks like a good short story collection called "Nervous People And Other Satires by Mikhail Zoshchenko," which has excerpts from "Before Sunrise." You can even preview it at google books.

But I don't find much more. He wrote a longish short story entitled "People" ("Lyudi"), that I don't see, unfortunately, in the table of contents to that collection.

He also wrote a collection of historical sketches called "Blue Book" (1935), which explores the role of human appetites and vices in shaping world history. The events he ruminates over are grouped into 5 categories:

I. Money
II. Love
III. Treachery
IV. Failure
V. Surprising events

Then there are to two full-length books he wrote about his own struggles with depression:

-- "Story of the Mind" ("Povest' o Rasumye")
-- "Before Sunrise"

Whatever you can find would be worth reading.


Eddie

The short story collection it is, then.

Thank you, Pinz.

In the fullness of time, I'll get back to you.


pinhedz
Schrödinger's Hepcat

Zoshchenko's story about a chimp "The Adventures of a Monkey," was judged to be politically incorrect.

From a resolution of the Central Committee of the All-Union Communist Party (Bolsheviks), 14 August 1946

The Central Committee of the Communist Party of the
Soviet Union determines that the publishing of the Leningrad
literary-artistic magazines “Zvezda” and “Leningrad” is being carried
out in a wholly unsatisfactory manner.

Recently in “Zvezda” magazine, along with important
and worthwhile works of Soviet writers, there have appeared many
worthless, ideologically harmful works. A crude mistake of “Zvezda” is
the offering of a literary platform to the writer [M.M.] Zoshchenko,
whose productions are alien to Soviet literature. The editorial staff
of “Zvezda” is well aware that Zoshchenko has long specialized in
writing empty, vapid, and vulgar things, in spreading putrid nonsense,
vulgarity and indifference to politics, so as to mislead our young
people and poison their consciousness. Lately in the press,
Zoshchenko’s story “Adventures of an Ape” (“Zvezda” Nos. 5 and 6, 1946)
presents a vulgar libel on the Soviet way of life and on Soviet people.

Zoshchenko portrays Soviet order and Soviet people in a freakishly
caricatured way, slanderously presenting Soviet people as primitive,
lacking culture, stupid, with narrow minds and tastes and tempers. The
spiteful hooligan-like image Zoshchenko has of our reality is
accompanied by anti-Soviet attacks.

Giving the pages of “Zvezda” over to such literary
pretenders and riff-raff as Zoshchenko was especially intolerable
because the editors of “Zvezda” well knew Zoshchenko’s physiognomy and
his unworthy behavior during the war, when Zoshchenko, doing nothing to
aid the Soviet nation in its struggle against the German invaders,
wrote such a loathsome thing as “Before Sunrise,” an assessment of
which, as well as an assessment of all of Zoshchenko’s literary
“works,” has been given in the pages of “Bol’shevik” magazine.

In addition, “Zvezda” in every way popularizes work by
the authoress Akhmatova, whose literary and socio-political physiognomy
has been known to Soviet people for a long, long time. Akhmatova is a
typical exponent of empty, frivolous poetry that is alien to our
people. Permeated by the scent of pessimism and decay, redolent of
old-fashioned salon poetry, frozen in the positions of
bourgeois-aristocratic aestheticism and decadence – “art for art’s
sake” – not wanting to progress forward with our people, her verses
cause damage to the upbringing of our youth and cannot be tolerated in
Soviet literature.

Giving Zoshchenko and Akhmatova active roles in the
magazine, undoubtedly, brought in elements of ideological disorder and
disorganization amongst writers in Leningrad. In the magazine there
began to appear works cultivating a spirit of servility,
uncharacteristic of the Soviet people, before the current bourgeois
culture of the West. There began to be published works penetrated with
depression, pessimism, and disillusionment with life (verses by
Sadofeva and Komissarova in issue #1 of 1946 etc.). Publishing these
works, the editorial staff aggravated their mistakes and, even more,
degraded the ideological level of the magazine.

Tolerating the penetration into the magazine of works
alien in ideological attitude, the editorial staff also lowered the
standards for artistic quality in publishing literary material. The
paper began to be filled with unedifying plays and stories (“The Way of
Time” by Jagdfeld, “Swan Lake” by Stein). Such carelessness in the
choice of materials for publication resulted in a deterioration of the
artistic level of the magazine.

The Central Committee notes that “Leningrad” magazine
is directed particularly badly, as it constantly offered its pages to
the vulgar and slanderous statements of Zoshchenko and to the vapid and
apolitical verses of Akhmatova. Like the editorial staff of “Zvezda,”
the editorial staff of “Leningrad” magazine permitted gross errors,
publishing a series of works that were permeated with a spirit of
cringing servility before everything foreign. The magazine printed a
number of erroneous works (“An Event over Berlin” by Varshavsky and
Rest, “On Picket Duty” by Slonimsky). In the poem “The Return of
Onegin” by Khazin, in the guise of literary parody, there was made a
libel against contemporary Leningrad. In “Leningrad” magazine they
publish mainly insipid, low-grade literary materials.

How was it possible that “Zvezda” and “Leningrad” magazines, published
in the Hero City of Leningrad, so well known for its progressive
revolutionary traditions, a city that has always been an incubator for
progressive ideas and progressive culture, allowed the dragging into
the magazines of that which is vapid and apolitical, alien to Soviet
literature?

In what respect has the editorial staff of “Zvezda” and “Leningrad” erred?
The leading workers of the magazines, and especially
their senior editors Comrades Sayanov and Likharev forgot the position
of Leninism, that our magazines, whether they be scientific or
artistic, cannot be apolitical. They forgot that our magazines serve as
a powerful instrument of the Soviet state in the matter of educating
Soviet people and especially young people, and therefore must be guided
by that which constitutes the vital foundation of the Soviet system –
its politics. The Soviet system cannot endure educating young people in
a spirit of apathy towards Soviet politics, in a spirit of indifference
and empty ideas.

The strength of Soviet literature, the most
progressive literature in the world, consists of this, that it is a
literature which cannot have any other interests but the interests of
the people and the interests of the state. The task of Soviet
literature is this, to help the state educate our young people
correctly, to answer their requirements, to raise a new generation to
be energetic, believing in its cause, not fearing obstacles, ready to
overcome every obstacle. Therefore every propagation of empty ideas, of
apolitical thoughts, of “art for art’s sake,” is alien to Soviet
literature, harmful to the interests of the Soviet people and state and
should not have a place in our magazines.

The ideological failings of the leading workers of
“Zvezda” and “Leningrad” also led to these workers putting their own
attitudes at the foundation of their relations with writers, not the
interests of correct education of Soviet people and the political
tendency of the writers' activities, but rather personal interests and
friendships. Because of a reluctance to harm friendly relationships,
criticism was blunted. Because of a fear of offending friends, they
allowed the printing of plainly unsuitable works. This sort of
liberalism (by which the interests of the people and the state, the
interests of correctly educating our young people, are sacrificed to
personal friendships) stifles criticism; moreover it causes writers to
stop improving, and, losing awareness of their responsibilities before
the people, before the state, before the Party, they cease to move
forward.

All of the above bears witness that the editorial staff of “Zvezda” and
“Leningrad” magazines did not manage the job entrusted to them well and
allowed serious political errors in the direction of the magazines.
The Central Committee determines that the Executive
Committee of the Soviet Writers’ Union and, in particular, its chairman
Comrade Tikhonov, did not take any measures to improve “Zvezda” and
“Leningrad” magazines. Not only did they not lead the struggle against
the pernicious influence on Soviet literature of Zoshchenko, Akhmatova
and other similar un-Soviet authors, but they even facilitated the
penetration into the magazines of tendencies and customs alien to
Soviet literature. The Leningrad City Committee of the CPSU, having
overlooked extremely serious errors of the magazines, abdicated from
leadership of the magazines, and gave the opportunity to people alien
to Soviet literature such as Zoshchenko and Akhmatova to hold leading
positions in the magazines. In addition, knowing the attitude of the
Party towards Zoshchenko and his “creative work,” the Leningrad City
Committee (Comrades Kapustin and Shirokov), not having the right to do
so, confirmed by the decision of the City Committee of 26 June, this
year, the new membership of the editorial board of “Zvezda” which even
includes Zoshchenko. Similarly, the Leningrad City Committee permitted
a crude political mistake. “Leningrad Pravda” committed a mistake,
allowing a contemptible laudatory review by Yuri German about the
creations of Zoshchenko in the issue of 8 July, this year.
The Directorate of Propaganda of the Central Committee
of the CPSU did not ensure proper supervision of the work of the
Leningrad magazines.

The Central Committee of the CPSU resolves:

1. To compel the editorial staff of “Zvezda” magazine,
the Board of Directors of the Soviet Writers’ Union, and the
Directorate of Propaganda of the Central Committee of the CPSU to take
measures for the unconditional elimination, according to these decrees,
of the errors and deficiencies of the magazines, to correct the line of
the magazine and guarantee the lofty ideals and artistic standard of
the magazine, ending access to the magazine of the work of Zoshchenko,
Akhmatova and the like.

2. Given that, at the present time, conditions are not
suitable for the publication of two literary-artistic magazines in
Leningrad, to cease publication of “Leningrad” magazine, concentrating
literary efforts in Leningrad on “Zvezda” magazine.

3. For the goals of putting into appropriate order the work of the
editorial staff of “Zvezda” magazine and of making significant
improvement in the magazine, to have for the magazine a senior editor
and editorial board. To ensure that the senior editor of the magazine
carries the complete responsibility for the ideological and political
course of the magazine and the quality of publication and its work.

4. To approve as senior editor of “Zvezda” Comrade A. M. Yegolin while
keeping him in the position of Deputy Chief in the Directorate of
Propaganda of the Central Committee of the CPSU.

[End of partial transcription in the magazine «Kul'tura i ZHizn'».]
Additional points (5-13) from the same decree, printed in the newspaper «Pravda», 21 August 1946:
http://www.hist.msu.ru/ER/Etext/USSR/journal.htm.

5. To charge the Secretariat of the Central Committee
to examine and approve the structure of the editorial section and the
editorial staff.

6. To repeal, as politically mistaken, the decree of
the Leningrad City Committee of 26 July of this year regarding the
editorial staff of “Zvezda” magazine. To administer a reprimand to the
second Secretary of the City Committee Comrade Ya. F. Kapustin for the
adoption of this decree.

7. To take away from the work of the secretariat on
propaganda and from managing the Leningrad City Committee Directorate
of Agitprop Comrade I. M. Shirokov, removing him at the command of the
Central Committee of the CPSU.

8. To give Party leadership to “Zvezda” magazine by
the Leningrad Regional Committee. To oblige the Leningrad Regional
Committee and the first Secretary of the Leningrad Regional Committee
and City Committee Comrade Popkov to personally take all necessary
measures for the improvement of the magazine and for the strengthening
of ideological-political work among the writers of Leningrad.

9. To announce a reprimand against Comrade B. M. Likharev for poor leadership of “Leningrad” magazine.

10. Noting that “Zvezda” magazine is published in a slip-shod fashion
with considerable delay; is put together extremely carelessly (the
cover jacket has an unsightly appearance, and it does not show the
month of issue in numeric order), to compel the editorial staff of
“Zvezda” to guarantee timely publication of the magazine and improve
its external appearance.

11. To entrust the Directorate of Propaganda of the
Central Committee (Comrade Aleksandrova) with the implementation of the
present resolution.

12. To have the Orgburo of the Central Committee hear
in 3 months the report of the senior editor of “Zvezda” on the
implementation of the decree of the Central Committee.

13. To send Comrade Zhdanov to Leningrad to explain the current decrees of the Central Committee of the CPSU.

pinhedz
Schrödinger's Hepcat

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Re: Mikhail Zoshchenko--a 20th century Gogol'

Post  pinhedz on Tue Apr 26, 2011 11:23 pm

Hi-lites:

The editorial staff of “Zvezda” is well aware that Zoshchenko has long specialized in
writing empty, vapid, and vulgar things, in spreading putrid nonsense, vulgarity and indifference to politics, so as to mislead our young people and poison their consciousness. Lately in the press, Zoshchenko’s story “Adventures of an Ape” (“Zvezda” Nos. 5 and 6, 1946) presents a vulgar libel on the Soviet way of life and on Soviet people.

Zoshchenko portrays Soviet order and Soviet people in a freakishly caricatured way, slanderously presenting Soviet people as primitive, lacking culture, stupid, with narrow minds and tastes and tempers. The spiteful hooligan-like image Zoshchenko has of our reality is accompanied by anti-Soviet attacks.

pinhedz
Schrödinger's Hepcat

Posts : 11533
Join date : 2011-04-11
Location : DC

http://www.balalaika.org/

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