Looking for a Thaw
From OUR MOSCOW CORRESPONDENT
HRUSHCHEV was a wunderkind. He knew
all about art when he was eight.' The joke expresses the bitter anguish of the artists and the writers who found themselves gagged and neglected in the post-Stalin period. It is a real paradox that Khrushchev, one of the true liberal- isers of the Soviet society, in the end only suc- ceeded in alienating the intelligentsia which should have been on his side. And few heaved a greater sigh of relief when he went than the large circle of literary and artistic people who loathed Khrushchev as they did not even loathe Stalin. The paradox, however, is easy to explain.
Khrushchev had a built-in distrust of the intellectual. Although he allowed intellectuals, greater freedom than Stalin did, he was afraid of the kind of ferment produced, or at least helped, by the intellectuals in Eastern Europe. Consequently he restrained them. This was deeply resented. For the intelligentsia, Khrush- chev's political dilemma was of no relevance to their problems, and what upset them even more was his erratic behaviour on the issues which mattered to them. His public' pronounce- ments became a source of shame and embarrass- ment.
Khrushchev is now, history. What matters is the future. Strangely enough, in all the words which have sought to explain his fall, the arts have been conspicuous by lack of reference. There have been no positions taken where the arts are concerned. An uneasy truce seems to have prevailed between the ants and the new regime. It is possible that, busy as the 'leaders have been with mundane things like agriculture and industry, they have found no time to pay attention to the arts. But it is even more possible that for the time being they want the intelligentsia on their side and are leaving it well alone.
Whatever the explanation, the new year seems to offer a promising dawn for the arts. There is a fresh burst of energy, and high hopes are held by some that the new government will be more liberal than its predecessor. There are some signs, too, that their opinion is justified. A col- lected edition of Boris Pasternak's poems is due for publication from Leningrad next year, possibly to coincide with the fifth anniversary of his death. The collection will include the poems which formed an integral part of Dr. Zhivago. It is too early to say that it will be a prelude to the publication of Dr. Zhivago, but such an event is now within the realms of possi- bility. It must' be added, however, that Dr. Zhivago is by no means considered an 'undisputed masterpiece by the Russians. Many of them genuinely feel that its merits were overblown because of the controversy which surrounded it.
Even more significant is the expected publi- cation of Isaac Babel's Red Cavalry stories, also due next year. The implied rehabilitation of Babel, a victim of Stalin, has excited writers. Recently a public meeting was held under •the auspices of the Writers' Union to pay homage to Babel, and it was chaired by the veteran Ehren- burg (who complained loudly about the size of the hall, since a huge overflow audience could not get in).
Statement of Intent Publication of other controversial writers old and new is planned. A great deal of this revival is centred round Lovuimir and a stimulating new year is promised for its readers. Writers who published little during the last phase of Khrushchev are now surging forward. The situa- tion is not without its comic side. Some, in their haste to join the new bandwagon, forget what they had written not so long ago, and contradict themselves.
In other mediums, too, there arc unmistakable signs that some liberalisation is on the way. A most revealing incident occurred at a recent meeting of the Academy of Arts where Prime Minister Kosygin was present. The President of the Academy, Georgi Serov, a painter, launched into a vigorous denunciation of some writers and artists. He was gently but firmly pulled up by Kosygin, who told him that differ- ences of opinion should not lead to name-calling.
For the present, therefore, the situation is far better than it has ever been, except perhaps during the heady days before the Hungarian uprising. It may change for the worse if the leaders feel that the intellectual resurgence is getting out of hand. They are waiting and watch- ing how the writers and artists use their free- dom. As for the Soviet writers, they are far too seasoned to make the mistake of letting a hundred flowers bloom only to be picked by some over-zealous Mao.
Without comment. A letter to the editor of Literatura Gazetta. `Sir,—Recently your paper, Komsomolskaya Pravda, and the magazine Yonost, have published a survey of the novel by I. Sheytsov called Dlya. There is a foreword to it signed by me. At the time of filing this foreword I had not read the novel. The foreword was prepared beforehand by the author of the novel. In doing this I was extremely indiscreet, to put it mildly. Allow me to express my sincere regrets over this through your paper. Now, after I have read the novel, I have realised that the lofty essence of art, and of serving art, has been entirely twisted. I consider it my duty to state that I am in complete agreement with the critical evaluation of this so-called novel pub- lished in the press. With deep respect (signed) A. Loktoionov, member of the Academy of Art.'