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Book Title: Софья Петровна|
The author of the book: Lydia Chukovskaya
Date of issue: 2009
ISBN 13: 9785998503610
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 368 KB
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Reader ratings: 4.5
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Having just finished one of Tolstoy's masterpieces that looks ahead to Russia's future, I selected a novella set in 1937 that details the purge of enemies of the party. Born in 1907, Lydia Chukovskaya became a well known author and wrote books of poetry for children. Today, however, she is best known for her The Deserted House, a novella describing the great purge. Hidden for 25 years, the book has yet to be published in Russia, and in 1967 was published in New York. Through translator Aline Werth, Chukovskaya's words were brought to light in the west.
Olga Petrovna Lipatova was a loyal party member and worked at a steady job in a publishing house to support her only son Nikolai Fydorovich "Kolya." A rising star in the Komsomol and as a future engineering genius, Kolya along with his friend Arik head to an outer province to start up a factory. Despite inventing a new mechanism and heading his class, Kolya is arrested almost immediately upon arrival, setting his mother Olga Petrovna into panic. Rather than acting as a loyal party member, Olga Petrovna believes that her primary role is to petition to have her son freed from prison.
Still loyal to Stalin and the party, Olga Petrovna lives a life in constant fear at both work and home. Acquaintances look at her as a relative to a deportee and would rather not associate with her. Even though she is a proud communist and takes an active role at party meetings, Olga Petrovna can no longer trust anyone. She stops speaking to her colleagues and to the other people in her apartment building. Rather she becomes paranoid that she will be arrested next, lives in isolation, and devotes herself to getting her son freed.
Written in third person, Chukovskaya has her readers on edge in anticipation of what will happen next for Olga Petrovna. Using short sentences, we move from one day to the next, hoping that Petrovna has lived to see another day. Although fictional, this novella describes the time of the purges in detail when all Russians lived in fear, not knowing who they could trust, who was a friend or enemy, and who would be deported. Even though a translation, Aline Werth does a masterful job in creating this feeling of fear and hopelessness, that big brother is always watching.
In my quest to read women authored books from around the globe, I came upon the works of Lydia Chukovskaya. Russia is not known for its female authors, yet Chukovskaya managed to leave the west the only detailed account of the great purges written during the same years. Even though A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich is better known, A Deserted House puts the reader right in the middle of the purges, in a feeling of constant fear and vigilance. Unfortunately most of Chukovskaya's work is not available in English or never published. A Deserted House was a necessary read, for which I rate 4 stars.
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Read information about the authorLydia Chukovskaya wrote 'Sofia Petrovna', a harrowing story about life during the Great Purges. But it was a while before this story would achieve widespread recognition. Out of favour with the authorities, yet principled and uncompromising, Chukovskaya was unable to hold down any kind of steady employment. But gradually, she started to get published again: an introduction to the works of Taras Shevchenko, another one for the diaries of Miklouho-Maclay.
By the time of Stalin's death in 1953, Chukovskaya had become a respected figure within the literary establishment, as one of the editors of the cultural monthly 'Literaturnaya Moskva'. During the late 1950s, 'Sofia Petrovna' finally made its way through Russia's literary circles, in manuscript form through samizdat. Khrushchev's Thaw set in, and the book was about to be published in 1963, but was stopped at the last moment for containing "ideological distortions". Indomitable as ever, Chukovskaya sued the publisher for full royalties and won. The book was eventually published in Paris in 1965, but without the author's permission and under the somewhat inaccurate title 'The Deserted House'. There were also some unauthorized alterations to the text. The following year, a New York publisher published it again, this time with the original title and text restored.
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