Commentary Magazine


Soviet Writing

To the Editor:

In his review of Anatoly Rybakov’s novel, Heavy Sands [Books in Review, June], Walter Laqueur asserts that it is “the first [novel] published in the Soviet Union since 1948” that presents a “detailed description . . . of the last days of many Russian Jews.” But in fact Rybakov’s novel is not the only one dealing with the subject of ghettos and the Final Solution in German-occupied Russia. During the 60’s there were others; especially remarkable, in my view, are the works of the Jewish-Lithuanian writer Itskhokas Meras, author of What the World Stands On (Na chem derzhitsya mir), which originally appeared in the literary journal Yunost. What makes an otherwise mediocre novel by Rybakov truly remarkable is the time and place of its publication: not only have there been no works in the Soviet Union dealing with the subject in recent years, but the journal Oktyabr, which serialized Heavy Sands, would have seemed the least likely place for it to appear, since it is known for its notoriously ultra-conservative literary and political stance. It is this fact that makes Heavy Sands a literary event of sorts rather than Rybakov’s alleged pioneering approach to the theme.

Ilya Levin
Department of Slavic Languages
University of Texas
Austin, Texas

About the Author




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