I know that I have the very uncomfortable habit of saying not what is advantageous at a given moment, but whatever I believe to be the truth. I never concealed what I think of literary servility, toadyism and coat changing. I have always thought and continue to think that such things are as degrading for the writer as they are to the revolution.” These words were written nearly 50 years ago, by the Soviet writer Evgeny Zamyatin, in a letter to Stalin requesting permission to leave the Soviet Union. Surprisingly, he got it. Vladimir Voinovich, the extraordinary Soviet satirist, suffers from Zamyatin’s disease, if not his “cure.” Voinovich, after publishing in the official Soviet press all through the ’60s, was expelled from the Union of Writers in 1974, one week after Solzhenitsyn was deported. While two works of his have since been published in the West, with this collection making a third, he has been unable to publish anything new in his own country for the last 10 or 12 years: how he survives is anybody’s guess.
Voinovich signed letters of protest in 1965, when Siniaysky and Daniel were tried, and again when Solzhenitsyn was attacked. In his two most recent works, The Life and E...
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