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Stof en as (Arbat tetralogy 4) by Anatoli…
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Stof en as (Arbat tetralogy 4) (original 1994; edition 1995)

by Anatoli Rybakov, Aai Prins (Translator)

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701171,029 (4.38)2
Member:marieke54
Title:Stof en as (Arbat tetralogy 4)
Authors:Anatoli Rybakov
Other authors:Aai Prins (Translator)
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Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:historical novel, russia, communism

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Dust and Ashes (Arbat Trilogy, Vol 3) by Anatoli Naumovich Rybakov (1994)

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The Anatoli Rybakov tertralogy in Dutch, the language I read them in consists of:

1. Kinderen van de Arbat
2. 1935 en volgende jaren
3. Angst
4. Stof en as

In English translation they are a trilogy: Children of the Arbat, Fear, Dust and Ashes.
Important are the Russian publication dates: 1987 for Deti Arbata, 1989 for Sovetski Pisatel, 1990 for Strach, and 1994 for Prach i pepel.
Considering via Amazon its number of pages I think the English language publisher combined the second and the third novel to one: Fear.

The first novel was already written and illegally distributed in the 1960s (Samizdat), during Khrushchev’s Thaw. But Rybakov strictly vetoed its translation during that time; being a very principled man he wanted a Russian publication first. At last, during Gorbachev’s Glasnost in the 1980’s the novel appeared in the USSR and so became one of the earliest publications of previously forbidden anti-Stalin literature. The next volumes which were written during the 1980s and 90s followed. Rybakov died four years after the publication of the last novel, in December 1998.

In these novels we are made partaker of the trials and tribulations of a group of classmates, their families and friends during 1933-43. This is the decade that witnessed the second Five Year Plan, the murder of Sergey Kirov, the Great Purge (Moscow Trials, camps, labor colonies: 700.000 persons murdered, 1.3 million deported), and the first years of the Great Patriotic War (23.600.000 dead).

As I cannot do it more concise I copy a fragment from Rybakov’s necrology by, I presume, congenial spirits:

“The novels chart the experiences of a group of childhood friends who grew up in Moscow's Arbat district from the time just prior to the arrest of the principal character, Alexander Pankratov (nicknamed Sasha and loosely based on the author), in late 1933 until the tragic wartime denouement ten years later.

In the Arbat trilogy Rybakov reveals his particular genius: an ability to combine a powerful sense of drama with a high degree of political and historical understanding. The work is neither a history with a thin veneer of fiction nor a story in which great historical events serve as mere background. (...) The author has a deep insight into his characters, particularly the way in which the social experiences through which they pass shape their intellectual, political and moral development. This infuses the characters--and Rybakov's writings as a whole--with realness and life.

Initially idealistic and somewhat iconoclastic, Sasha's outlook changes following his arrest to one of wariness and apprehension, not only about his own fate, but that of Soviet society as a whole. The lives of Sasha and his former companions are molded by the terrible experiences of the 1930s: the Kirov assassination, the mass arrests, the frame-up, torture and murder of Old Bolshevik leaders and socialist opponents of the ruling bureaucracy. The chronicle of Sasha's disillusionment and alienation, of the accommodation of a number of his former acquaintances to the official regime, and the relative isolation of those who behave courageously and decently, including his mother and an intellectual neighbor, convincingly accounts for his transformation. At the same time it reveals important truths about the period in which Sasha matures.

The trilogy presents a chilling portrait of Stalin, also a principal figure in the story. His brutal character is shown to be the outcome of a complex interaction between his background, his personal traits--malice, vindictiveness, short-sightedness--and his political role as the dictator who prepared the show trials. After reading the novels' episodes involving Stalin, one instinctively feels that Rybakov has captured him well. The events described may not always have overt political significance--such as Stalin's encounters with his dentist, who is terrified of offending him--but they reveal aspects of the dictator's essence. When Stalin calmly reviews "confessions" soiled with the blood of their signatories, one gets a sense of his ruthlessness in dealing with those who were connected with the October 1917 revolution."
(http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/1999/01/ryb-j05.html )

In fact the portrayal of Stalin with his lust for power, his paranoia and his way of obstructing the defense of the country (by way of purging the army on the eve of the German invasion: thousands of generals and other commanders were murdered) is breathtaking and goes with the Stalin Simon Sebag Montefiore gave us in his two biographies of the man (in 2003 and 2007!). In Rybakov we encounter great knowledge, great empathy.

But the WSWS fragment does omit an important story line: the tragic love story that develops between Sasja and Varja (as sad as Lara’s and the doctor’s story in Doctor Zhivago (the film, the book I never read).

It also omits the evolution of Varja, the other protagonist (a very clever 'against the grain' adolescent with a great heart) which is in my opinion also beautifully and psychological convincingly done in the second, third and fourth novel . How I love Rybakov for his portraying of women! Here again great empathy, which is a thing the comrades do not always share...

Reading this tetralogy I was in 1930/40 Russia with some Russians and their dilemma's which was fascinating. I enjoyed these rich books immensely and heartily recommend them.

------------------------------------

P.S.: A fragment from a link about Marina Goldovskaya’s documentary “Anatoly Rybakov - The Russian Story”, about the present importance of these books:

“Two main parts of (the documentary) are titled after the writer’s major novels, Children of the Arbat and Heavy Sand, and explore the continuing relevance of these works for contemporary Russia.

In contrast to Germany and its former allies, which went through an effective de-Nazification campaign, the Soviet Union experienced two aborted attempts to re-evaluate its totalitarian past and to dismantle Stalinist ideology and institutions: the Thaw and perestroika. However, as the filmmaker claims, in the Soviet Union the efforts of de-Stalinization and broader de-Sovietization were only half-hearted and never completed. The myth of the great Stalinist Empire and the heroic myth of the Great Patriotic War still obscure from Russians’ communal memory the uncomfortable narratives about Stalinist purges, the Holocaust, and Soviet-era anti-Semitism. Goldovskaia’s film cuts from footage of Stalin-era parades to present-day rallies in Moscow by fascists and nationalists, suggesting that the unfinished de-Sovietization breeds a new type of totalitarian mentality.

The section about Rybakov’s Heavy Sand explores Soviet-style Holocaust denial. The communal myth of Soviet martyrdom and victory in World War II is used to replace memories of the Holocaust. Goldovskaia links this Soviet experience of purposeful and state-endorsed manipulation of the historical past with the revival of anti-Semitism in present-day Russia. Anatoly Rybakov is, indeed, “the Russian story,” since it explains graphically how Russia’s way of dealing with its totalitarian past is different from the Western treatment of a similar social disease. The filmmaker’s message is clearly articulated by her observational cinema style: the agenda of de-Sovietization, including the acknowledgment of the Holocaust, has to become part of Russians’ collective memory before the country can exorcise its totalitarian demons.”
http://www.kinokultura.com/2006/14r-rybakov.shtml ) ( )
  marieke54 | Jan 26, 2013 |
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Погиб и кормщик и пловец!

Лишь я, таинственный певец,

На берег выброшен грозою,

Я гимны прежние пою

И ризу влажную свою

Сушу на солнце под скалою.

А. Пушкин
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- Повезло тебе, дорогуша!
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0316763799, Hardcover)

This novel can stand alone, though the trilogy is best read in sequence. The whole makes a Tolstoy-scale epic of Soviet life, from the idealism of youth, through the confronting of reality, to a beaten disillusion. This last volume covers the bloody decade from Stalin's Terror to the turning point of World War II in 1943. Against this depressing backdrop, however, Rybakov creates romantic tension and suspense, as the reader roots for the coming together again of Sasha, the protagonist of the earlier volumes, and his still beloved Varya. Rybakov is an old-fashioned storyteller, with a keen sense of the compelling detail.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:29:06 -0400)

A novel of the Soviet Union's struggle against the Nazis. The hero is Sasha Pankratov, a prisoner rescued from the gulag by the onset of World War II. He becomes a tank commander, a position that propels him from the desolation of Siberia to the rubble of Stalingrad and, ultimately, to the streets of Berlin. By the author of Children of the Arbat.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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