Another quote from Dobrenko’s “The Literature of the Zhdanov Era: Mentality, Mythology, Lexicon” (see yesterday’s post):
In this way [by the crushing of individuality in the late Stalin era], the beachhead of self-consciousness had been shrunk to a small bit. But this small bit was not too cozy (like a chilly apartment with rented furniture); hence the desire to brighten it, fill it with light, joy, cheerfulness, optimism. This injunction became fixed in the titles. Not being able to stop to consider these works, I give only the titles — a sampling of a vast wave: Light over the Earth, Light over the Fields, Light over Lipsk, The Sun of Altai, the Earth in Bloom, Happiness (Pavlenko), Happiness (Baialinov), The Azure Lights, The Azure Fields, Youth Is with Us, Song over the Waters, Life’s Summits, The Happy Day, Winged People, The Future Begins, The Star of Happiness, Our Youth, The Rise, Youth, Always Ahead, The Stars Never Pale, The Road to Happiness, The Dawn, Toward the Dawn, The Moscow Dawns, The Sun That Never Sets, In the Happy Path. There is an amazing amount of a kind of feeling of spring, breadth, spaciousness (“a spring wind blows over my country”). The small bit is narrow, yet “broad is my beloved country” [a famous song of the Stalin era]; the person is a function, yet “with every passing day it is a greater joy to live.” Here they are, passing before one’s eyes: The Spring Winds, Spring-time, The Spring Streams, Spring, Spring on the Oder, The Big [Spring] Flood, What Airiness, The Wind of the Century, The Sea Breeze, The Wind from the South. And where there are winds and the spring, there are also roads: The Road to Frontiers, The Road Within, The Road to the Ocean, Roads That We Choose, Roads. Spaces also define the optics: The Great Fate, Great Kin, The Great Ore, The Great Family, The Great Art, The Great Day. Even someone who has never touched any of the books mentioned must sense a certain kind of disposition and understand that everything here is not accidental. These titles have a semantics of their own.
It makes me tired and depressed just reading that list of determinedly upbeat titles.
(Another note on translation: a few sentences later, the Russian word фабула ‘plot’ is simply transliterated as “fabula.” I have no idea what the English-speaking reader is supposed to make of that.)
Addendum. I’ve just found (here) a quote from the Pakistani poet Faiz Ahmad Faiz (translated by Agha Shahid Ali) that admirably sums up this particular aspect of totalitarian art:
See our leaders polish their manner clean of our suffering:
Indeed, we must confess only to bliss.