Vasiliy Grossman : the genesis and evolution of heresy.
Prevailing wisdom avers that the Great Fatherland War is the
crucial event in Vasiliy Grossman's disaffection from Soviet power. The importance of the war cannot be denied. Yet this thesis seeks to show that the origins of Grossman's heresy are to be found in the thirties. It will be argued that collectivisation, industrialisation and above all the Terror are the catalysts leading to Grossman's wholesale renunciation of Marxism-Leninism and his search for a coherent and humane alternative. To this end the evolution of certain themes will be examined from before the war to their maturation in Zhizn' i sud'ba and Vse techet. Chapter I brings together many recently published sources of biographical information. Additionally it states the nature of the problem to be solved. Given the significance of the war for Grossman's writing, chapter II examines the major trends in Soviet war literature from 1941 up to and including the accession of Gorbachev. Particular attention is paid to the problem of Remarquism. Chapter
III examines the key works wri tten by Grossman during the war years. Their importance for the post-war period is apparent in chapter IV. Grossman's ocherki and povesti are the basis for many of his finest portraits of Soviet soldiers. Chapter V analyses the peculiarly Soviet phenomenon of the commissar and his interaction with the officer and the rank and file.
Concepts of war and progress are the subject of chapter VI. A
detailed analysis of Grossman's sole play, "Esli verit'
pi fagoreyt sam" I in many respect s a seminal work, argues that its central theme is fundamentally inimical to Marxist-Leninist teleology. Subsequent sections examine the role of the scientist in Grossman's work, the view that scientific research and political heresy are inextricably linked. Attention is also focused on the interrelationship of war and historical change. Throughout Za pravoe delo and Zhizn' i sud'ba we are conscious of an affinity with Tolstoy. A final section considers the extent to which Grossman's concepts of war differ from, or compare with, those of Tolstoy. The final chapter considers the nature of the totalitarian state as recorded in Grossman's writing. Special attention has been given to a number of Grossman's neglected pre-war rasskazy. Not published until
the sixties, they are harrowing accounts of upheaval and the effects of social engineering. All three of Grossman's major novels concern themselves with the nature of the tyrant. Classical, medieval and Tsarist antecedents allude to Stalin in Stepan Kol' chugin. In Za pravoe delo Grossman explores certain aspects of Stalinism through the medium of Hitler's Germany. Both Nazi and Soviet systems are explicitly identified as coessential in Zhizn' i sud'ba. This chapter concludes with an analysis of Grossman's most damning thesis, expounded in Vse techet. that Lenin, not Stalin was the architect of Soviet slavery.