Mr. Rybakov still works much and continues to
pay much attention to the Russian PEN Center.
In the end of 20s my generation survived the crach of our ideals, in 30s - many turned into the campís powder or died in 40s in the fields of the World War II.
Their anonymous graves may be found anywhere from river Kolyma to Berlin. They turned into dust, all they had done - into ashes, colors and stadards which led them in through their youth falled, their dreams, hopes and songs disappeared. Their successors remember only their errors and delusions.
I was born on January 14, 1911 in the family of an engineer in the town of Chernigov (Ukraine).
In 1919 we moved to Moscow and settled at Arbat in building 51 descrived in my novels. I studied at the Khvorostovkaya Gymnasium located in Kryvoarbatsky Pereulok.
Two last school years I went to the experimental demonstration commune-school (abbr. MOPShK) in the 2nd Obydensky Pereulok at Ostozhenka. MOPShK had best teachers of that time.
The school emerged as a commune of the memebrs of young communist league, returned from the civil war. It was distinguished by its spirit of collectivism, unselfishness, defiance to careerism and time serving.
After school I worked at the Dorogomilovsky chemical plant as a loader, then as a driver. In 1930 I entered the Moscow Transportation Economic Institute.
On November 5th, 1933 I was arrested and by a Special Meeting of the OGPU College sentensed to three years of exile under Par. 58-10 (Counterrevolutionary Agitation and Propaganda).
After the end of the exile without the rights to live in cities and towns with passport regimes, I wandered about Russia. Worked at places where it was not necessary to fill qustioonaries.
From 1941 - in the Army. Took part in battles at different fronts beginning from the defence of Moscow and ending with the capture of Berlin.
Last position - the head of traffic service of the 4th Guards Infantry Corps, rank - major-engineer. "For merits in battles with Fashist German Invaders" was recognised as unsentensed. In 1960 I was completely justified. Never joined any political parties.
13 years after the arrest, following demibilzation in 1946 I returned back home to Moscow. Then I started writing stories and novels, screenplays for movies and TV serials.
My books are published in 52 countries of the world in over 20 million copies.
Winner of the USSR State Prize (in literature) and the RSFSR Prize (in cinematography).
Suppressed by the Soviet Union for over twenty years, Anatoli Rybakov's Children of the Arbat is estined to rank with Boris Pasternak's Doctor Zhivago as a classic of historical fiction. Set in 1934, Children of the Arbat presents a masterful and chilling psychological portrait of Stalin and details the beginning of its reignof terror and its impact on a generation - represented by a circle of young friends living in Moscow's intellectual and artistic centre, the Arbat.
Sasha Pankratov, a young engineering student and loyal member of the Young Communist League, is unjustly accused of subversion, arrested, and subsequently exiled to Siberia. Interwined with the story of Sasha, his family, and his friends, as they struggle against a glowing plague of deceit and fear, is a riveting account of Stalin's burgeoning paranoia. Rybakov exposes the roots of Stalin's megalomania and the cold, calculating scheme to assassinate his colleague Kirov, providing the excuse to unleash the Terror.
Rybakov brings alive a generation and a nation on the brink of self-destruction with the story of Sasha Pankratov, a yuong man sent into Siberian exile after a flippant and inadvertently impolitic remark in a school newspaper. No longer the idealistic youth of Rybakov's first novel, but a knowlegeable victim with hardwon wisdom, Sasha is released to make his way across a country where the mass arrests have continued, but the Party faithful - the original creators of the Bolshevic revolution - are now subject to arrest, torture, trial and death.
In his profound rendering of Stalin's mind and personality, Rybakov proved his extraordinary skills as both historian and craftsman. His depiction of the dynamics of terrorism is equally deft: the psychological molding of a once hopeful generation into fearful, self-protecting informers; and even more devastating, Stalin's conscious twisting of a self-serving but essentially banal bureaucracy into a horde of prosecutorial demons whose zeal and inventivenes surpass Torquemada's inquisitors.
It is one of the most spectaular publishing successes in Soviet history. The novel first appeared last year as a serial in the magazine Druzhba Narodov Friendship of Peoples); issues sold out so rapidly that copies were being hawked on the black market for $200. the equivalent of an average worker's monthly salary. The first 500,000 copies of a hard-cover edition, published in February, were snapped up in two days and were often gone so fast that lines had no time to form. By the end of the year, an additional 2.4 million copies will be in print. A paperback (print order: 3.5 million) is in the works, a play based on the book is about to open, and there is talk of a movie. Meanwhile, there are or will be translations of the novel in at least 20 languages, including English, French, German and Japanese.
This remarkable literary
event is Children of Arbat by Anatoli Rybakov, 77. In the view of Princeton
Professor Emeritus Robert —. Tucker, the leading American scholar of the
Stalin era, the hook is "one of the very few truly important works of historical
fiction to come out of Russia in our time. Tucker favorably compares Arbat,
as "a novel of moral depth." with Boris Pasternak's masterwork, Doctor
Zhivago. Twice before, in 1966 and 1978, Arbat was announced for publication,
but both times it was mysteriously withdrawn. Two years ago. Poet Yevgeny
Yevtushenko predicted that if the novel were ever published in the Soviet
Union it would change the country.
Children of the Arbat is the first volume of a quasiautobiographical trilogy on which Rybakov has been working for more than 20 years. Its appearance underlines one aspect of General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev's policy on glasnost: a willingness to let Soviet writers tell the truth about hitherto hidden aspects of the country's past. There is a certain irony that Rybakov should be the writer to forge this breakthrough. A Ukrainian-born Jew, he is neither a dissident nor a refusenik but a pillar of the literary establishment, a member of the Writers' Union who has won several state awards-including the Stalin Prize in 1951.
Traditional, even conventional in style and structure, Arbat is set in 1934, a year of relative calm in the turbulent early history of the Soviet Union. The 'children" are a group of Komsomol (League of Communist Youth) members who live and work in the Arbat, then a lively, bohemian district. One of them is Sasha Pankratov, an idealistic student at Moscow's Institute of Transport. As the novel begins, he is expelled for what appears to be relatively trivial offenses against party discipline: composing humorous antiworker verses for a school newspaper, criticizing an instructor and refusing to join in a witchhunt against the institute's discredited deputy director. Eventually arrested by the NKvD (secret police), Pankratov is taken to Moscow's Butyrki prison, where he is interrogated in scenes reminiscent of George Orwell's 1984. Despite the persistence of his interrogator, Pankratov refuses to confess to involvement in a counterrevolutionary plot and is sentenced to three years of internal exile in Siberia.
The second half of the novel records his Siberian adventures, as well as the experiences of his family and Komsomol colleagues in Moscow. Clearly, though, the main reason for the intense interest of Soviet readers is the author's portrait of Stalin. Rybakov, who never met the dictator, sometimes departs from the historical record, presumably for dramatic effect. For example, Stalin in the novel appears to be sentimentally fond of his father, a shoemaker, whereas the evidence shows he hated his real father, an alcoholic who beat him mercilessly. Nonetheless, Soviet experts who have read the book generally applaud the psychological accuracy ofRybakov's portrait.
Barbaric and tough willed, guileful and vain, Stalin is as challenging a subject for a novelist as for a biographer. Born Josef Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili in 1879, he was briefly a Russian Orthodox seminarian. After being expelled, he joined the fledgling Bolshevik faction of the Social Democratic Party in 1904. serving as an itinerant organizer and propagandist. Shortly after the 1917 October Revolution, he was named General Secretary of the Communist Party's Central Committee. It was considered a drudge's job, but it allowed Stalin to place allies in key positions within the expanding Soviet bureaucracy and to position himself to take control after Lenin's death in 1924.
Lenin had opposed Stalin as his successor. "This chef will cook only peppery dishes." Lenin once warned, but he did not make his view widely known. By 1934 Stalin had managed to outmaneuver his principal rivals (notably Leon Trotsky whom he forced into exile). Nonetheless, Stalin still had to cope with a relatively moderate opposition within the Politburo, led by Sergei Kirov, the popular head of the party apparatus in Leningrad.
Kirov was shot to death
in December 1934, an event that triggered Stalin's reign of terror, a vast
purge that culminated in the show trials of 1936 and 37. After personally
conducting the interrogation of the
To Rybakov, all this is not history in the abstract but the stuff of memory. Like his hero Pankratov, the author lived in the Arbat district, studied at the Moscow Transport Institute and for three years was a political prisoner in Siberia. "Sasha Pankratov has my biography," he says. "I was expelled and exiled for a similar college newspaper prank." After finishing his sentence, Rybakov was forbidden to live in a large city. He traveled a lot, picking up odd jobs-driving trucks, teaching ball-room dancing - that did not require him to fill out personnel forms. "As soon as I got to a new town he recalls, "I would make the acquaintance of a local woman. That way, I'd have a place to sleep, at least for the first night."
During World War II, was a transport officer in the 8th Infantry Corps of Guards. Then he decided to try his hand at writing. His first book was a 1948 adventure story for children called The Dirk, which was turned into a movie, a feature-length cartoon, a TV special and a play, all written by Rybakov. "That's the only way a writer can make money, by doing his own adaptations," he says. "It takes me two years to write a book and two weeks to do the screenplay-and I get four times as much for that!"
Rybakov is among the privileged elite of the Soviet Union, with relative freedom to travel abroad. He has a comfortable apartment in Moscow but spends most of his time at a dacha in Peredelkino, the writers' colony outside the capital. He has turned his study there into a library of documents from the Stalin era. His companion and collaborator is his second wife Tanya, who gave up her editing job at a popular magazine called Krugozor (Outlook) to help him complete Arbal: Rybakov admits that the book would not exist in its present form without her. Tanya discovered, for example, that Stalin's former dentist was still alive and insisted that Rybakov meet him, thereby inspiring one of the novel's most entertaining episodes.
Rybakov is now writing the second volume of his trilogy, to be titled 1935 and Other Years the third volume, tentatively 1944, will deal with Soviet life during the war. Pankratov will be a central figure in both books- as will Stalin. The popular success of Arbat has brought Rybakov much new material for his trilogy: every day he receives between 30 and 40 letters from Soviet readers. Many of them relate stories of their own experiences under Stalin; some even send transcripts and testimony from the purge trials. Others. though, have criticized the author for telling unpleasant truths. A woman from the Ukrainian city of Vinnitsa, for example, charged Rybakov with being "vengeful" and "hateful." She wrote, "I have no doubt that our enemies would be happy to publish this book."
Some critics have wondered why Rybakov did not choose to write about a more recent Soviet leader, such as Nikita Khrushchev. The author's answer, in essence, is that Stalin was responsible for a sense of fear that is still an inhibiting force in Soviet life. "Everyone quaked in fear of Stalin," he says. "He did the thinking for everyone. Until we get rid of that fear, we will not be able to develop as a society."
By John Ebon.
Reported by Antonina W. Bouis,
and James 0. Jackson/Moscow