Tortured words : the first Soviet Writers Congress, Moscow 1934 : socialist realism and Soviet reality in Stalin's Russia 1934-1939
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Both the academic and the fiction element of the thesis concerns events in the Soviet Union and elsewhere in Europe in the 1930s. The first element informs the second. The academic portion is based on the first Soviet Writers Congress of 1934, the only such gathering allowed by Stalin in his lifetime and an event following which many of its delegates were murdered. Primary research sources include the stenographic verbatim record of the Congress itself and an addendum consisting of biographical material published by the Writers Union of the USSR in 1990 as Russian Communism tottered towards its end. This part of the thesis examines aspects of Soviet reality against the background of the Purges, and includes consideration of the writer’s world, the significance of the Red Army to literary life, the position of foreigners and the doctrine of Socialist Realism, officially sanctified at the Congress. Other sources include memoir, histories of the period and material from the Thirties Soviet press. The fiction element comprises an excerpt from a novel, The Eastern Bow, which takes its title from Auden’s poem A Summer Night. It is a story of espionage set in Moscow, Paris and London from 1937 to 1939. The plot involves the writing of a book in Russia by an unknown writer of genius who tells the truth about Stalin, the Purges and what the Revolution has become –a perversion of its earlier ideals. The secret police, the NKVD, hunt for the book, its author and all connected with it. This sub-plot combines with another centred in London and Paris in which a Soviet spy within MI6 is also being sought by elements within British intelligence. The two strands combine in France at the climax of the novel.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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