Abstract

This paper examines how the modernist Soviet writer, Boris Pilnyak (1894-1938), became the target of a renewed campaign of vilification in 1936-1937 that led to his subsequent arrest, interrogation, conviction (on trumped up charges of espionage and terrorism), and execution in 1938. The accusation of having produced slanderous, if not treasonous, literary works that were “counter-revolutionary” and “anti-Soviet” in nature that had been leveled against Pilnyak in the late 1920s as a result of the publication of two controversial works of fiction, “Tale of the Unextinguished Moon” (1926) and Mahogany (1929), was renewed in 1936-1937 as part of an anti-formalism campaign launched against him at the height of Stalin’s Great Terror. The work that triggered this latest – and final – assault upon the long beleaguered writer, however, was a recent novel, titled Meat: A Novel (Miaso: Roman), that was co-authored with Sergei Belyaev (a physician and science fiction writer), that was serialized in the February, March, and April 1936 issues of the journal, Novyi mir, and that was never published in a separate edition. Pilnyak had been commissioned in late 1935 by Anastas Mikoyan, the Food Commissar, to write a Socialist Realist novel about the some of the recent achievements of the Soviet meat industry. The novel that Pilnyak and his silent partner produced turned out to be an ironic pastiche of a Soviet production novel rather than an authentic one. As my paper argues, the controversy over this parodic novel is what caused Pilnyak to suffer the fatal campaign of vilification in 1936-1937 that led to his eventual demise.

Publication Date

2018

Document Type

Article

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