The novel Good Stalin is inspired by Erofeev’s experience growing up amidst the Soviet political hierarchy. His father, a staunch Stalinist who has dedicated his life and soul to the party, begins as Stalin’s personal interpreter, and rises rapidly to the top of the political ladder and into the leader’s inner circle. The book reflects the family’s prestigious – and yet precarious – position as members of the nomenklatura. In one memorable scene, the main character Victor recalls how he would walk past the Kremlin as a child and comment to friends, “that’s where my father works – he and Comrade Stalin”.
However, unquestioning devotion to the Communist Party does not come to young Viktor so easily as it had for his father: growing up, he begins to write stories classified as “obscene literature” by the party. Like Erofeev himself, Victor gets involved in the world of dissident literature, violating Soviet censorship laws and being expelled from the Writers’ Union. His actions result in the end of his father’s career, just at the point when he hoped to be appointed Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs.
Erofeev’s autobiographical novel provides both a child’s and an adult’s perspective on several decades of Soviet history. The book documents not only the emergence of a prominent writer, but also looks at the evolution of the Soviet dissident movement amongst the nomenklatura.
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Victor Erofeev is a well known writer and dissident who was described in a recent documentary about his life as “the Russian libertine”. The author of a number of novels, his work has been translated into several languages and has received both critical and popular acclaim.
Born in 1947 into the family of a prominent Soviet diplomat, Erofeev spent some of his childhood abroad in Paris. He graduated in philology from Moscow State University, and in 1979 became the editor of the underground magazine Metropol, which brought together prohibited works by Soviet writers such as Bella Akhmadulina, Andrei Bitov and Vasily Aksenov. As a result, he was expelled from the Soviet Writers’ Union and his writing was banned until state censorship was relaxed under Gorbachev. Since the fall of the Soviet Union he has been a key public figure in Russia. In 1992 he was awarded the Nabokov Award, and was made a member of the French Order of Arts and Letters in 2006. Erofeev was also editor of the groundbreaking anthology, The Penguin Book of New Russian Writing.
Endorsements and Review Quotes
“Apparently honest to a fault, Khoroshii Stalin is also a deliberate tease, as much a mockery of the reader as the earlier stories: are we faced with a fiction that reads like an autobiography, or an autobiography disguised as a novel?” Oliver Ready, Times Literary Supplement
“Practically all of Хороший Сталин (Good Stalin) is a wonderful read. Yes, one wishes for a closer consideration of this widespread and unchallenged subservience to Stalin (Erofeyev only goes so far as too offer more general observations about the Russian character), but it’s such a winning read that one can readily excuse what shallows there are. Highly recommended.” The complete review
Intreview with Victor Erofeyev, “the exuberant new iconoclast of Russian literature”
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