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Red Plenty: Industry! Progress! Abundance!…

Red Plenty: Industry! Progress! Abundance! Inside the Fifties Soviet Dream (2010)

by Francis Spufford

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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3541930,811 (4.06)15
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» See also 15 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 18 (next | show all)
Fun to read. ( )
  F.Lee | Jan 6, 2014 |
Engaging, interesting, educational. Really liked this a lot. I enjoyed the semi-historical, semi-novelistic way of putting across the overall narrative, especially the fact that Spufford was quite clear in the end-matter about what was real and what was fictionalised, without cluttering up the main body of the book itself. ( )
  comixminx | Apr 5, 2013 |
This historical novel about the Soviet Union's economy from the late 1950s to the early 1960s isn't for everyone, or even for very many people at all, probably. While it does an excellent job of explaining some complex concepts, it also tends to jump around a lot. ( )
  wanack | Mar 5, 2013 |
This is a great story, well told...but - formally speaking - it has to be counted as a failure as a book. Fictional vignettes to tell the story of Soviet central planning? It's what an author resorts to when the story won't carry itself.

Still and all, a fascinating book. ( )
1 vote AsYouKnow_Bob | Oct 8, 2012 |
Francis Spufford's Red Plenty may be the most fascinating book I've read in a long, long time. It's the rare book where you think about the subject and have a hard time believing you are so involved with it.

On the surface, Red Plenty is, for lack of a better term, a literary history of the central planning of the Soviet Union's economy in the 1960s. The U.S.S.R.'s goal was to "overtake and surpass" capitalist economies and produce a horn of plenty. While economic planning seems a dry and boring topic, Spufford totally blurs the line between fiction and history. The book relates the history of this period through the eyes of more than a dozen real and fictional politicians, economists, technocrats and even a "fixer" with fact-based fiction. How often do you read a novel with some 50 pages of endnotes and a 13-page bibliography?

Red Plenty goes beyond typical historical fiction or creative nonfiction. Spufford, in fact, calls it a Russian fairytale. With what he terms "inter-chapters" printed in italics that break up the book, we get essays that summarize the actual history and interplay of theory, politics and economics. Each chapter is told by a different character and shows us the local and personal reality of the politics and the process. This approach makes entirely readable a topic that might otherwise glaze the eyes of all but Sovietoligists and economists.

Red Plenty isn't for everybody. It helps if you have at least some interest in the Soviet Union or the Cold War. The book also can occasionally get too theoretical or sometimes forces the reader to refer back to the cast of characters to see if we've met a particular narrator or character earlier in the book. But that does not keep it from being a success.

As a side note, a huge tip of the hat should go to Graywolf Press for bringing the book, first published in the U.K. in 2010, to the U.S. Over the last few years the St. Paul-based publisher has excelled at publishing exceptional American and foreign fiction.

(Originally posted at A Progressive on the Prairie.)
1 vote PrairieProgressive | Aug 25, 2012 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Francis Spuffordprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Villanueva, AlvaroCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Асланян, АннаTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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The Soviet Union was founded on a fairytale. It was built on 20th-century magic called 'the planned economy', which was going to gush forth an abundance of good things that the penny-pinching lands of capitalism could never match. And just for a little while, in the heady years of the late 1950s, the magic seemed to be working.… (more)

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