The early twentieth century poet Osip Mandelstam postulated that, Poetry is respected only in [Russia] people are killed for it. There's no place where more people are killed for it. Mandelstam, who himself fell victim to the Stalinist regime for his subversive prose, was commenting on the principal role that the writer played in Russian society as the moral tribune of his or her age and the great hero of Russian culture. The written word served a profound social function; it was an instrument for the judicious assessment of Russia's political and social institutions as well as the search for profound existential and ontological truths. With the rise of Joseph Stalin, however, the role of the writer was wholly transmuted as Stalin himself became the chief engineer of the human soul and literature gradually developed into an instrument of the military and state bureaucracy.
[...] Consequently, critics mercilessly disparage the writer and accuse him of being a militant Old Believer who is trying to “sneak into print an apologia for Jesus Christ.” Indeed, the plight of the Master could very well be distillations of Bulgakov's own denouncement by critics who perceived the subject matter of his plays as incompatible with the ideals of Soviet morality promoted by Stalin. For example, after he was effectively banned from Soviet theaters in 1930, Bulgakov began to burn a number of his manuscripts, just as the Master does upon realizing that there is no place for his novel in contemporary society. Like Bulgakov, the Master discovers that in a totalitarian world implicitly destructive to art, the true artist remains virtually powerless and exceedingly vulnerable to unjust persecution. [...]
[...] Wachtel, Andrew Baruch & Vinitsky, Ilya. Russian Literature: Cultural History of Literature. (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2009) Babel, Isaac. Collected Stories. Ed. Nathaniel Babel. (New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 2002) 4. Bulgakov, Mikhail. [...]
[...] The Master and Margarita. Ed. Burgin, Diane and O'Connor, Katherine. (New York: Vintage International.1995) Mandelstam, Nadezhda. Hope Against Hope. Ed. Haywood, Max, (New York: Atheneum Publishing 1970) 6. Osip Mandelstam, Still far from Patriarch or Sage, E-Reserves 7. Anna Akhmatova, Requiem. [...]
[...] Literature as an Institution: The Russian Case. Nadezhda Mandelstam, Hope Against Hope, (New York: Atheneum Publishing 1970) Andrew Baruch Wachtel & Ilya Vinitsky, Russian Literature: Cultural History of Literature, (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2009) Jeffrey Brooks, Thank you, Comrade Stalin!: Soviet Public Culture from Revolution to Cold War, (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2000) Jeffrey Brooks, Thank you, Comrade Stalin! ibid Wachtel, Russian Literature: Cultural History of Literature ibid Jeffrey Brooks, Thank you, Comrade Stalin! Wachtel, Russian Literature: Cultural History of Literature Professor Eakin Moss and Brooks; Class Lecture; [...]
[...] Similarly, by instituting his own conception of time and morality in the novel Master and Margarita, Mikhail Bulgakov is able to engage in a subversive counter-performance that satirizes the repressive values and institutions of contemporary Soviet society. He provides the reader with a world turned upside down, where the once coddled soviet literary bureaucrats are victimized rather then lauded, and the ‘immortals” who are to be feared are no longer members of the socialist pantheon, but rather the devil himself and his playful repertoire. Additionally, he highlights various social themes the housing shortage, people disappearing, informants, and the issue of foreign currency that would have been quite familiar to the contemporary reader. [...]
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