Books: Engineers of the Soul

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With such a great demand, nearly every book that is published could become a runaway best seller. Therefore the size of each edition is decided beforehand by the state publishing houses, more or less arbitrarily. The basis for decision is not how many books will sell, but how important and useful they are.

Stalin in the Small Hours. The process of self-criticism and external criticism through which a writer has to go before publication is a good test of his genius. First he discusses his work with an editor of a state publishing house, who may or may not approve. Next he is apt to read the work or parts of it to friends, who are often unsparing in their criticism. It is a frequent practice to publish chapters in magazines, and these are also open to criticism. He may also stand on his feet before a meeting of the Writers' Union and read passages from his work and then hear them discussed.

The book goes next to "Glavlit"—the Central Administration on Literary and Publishing Matters of the Central Committee of the Party. This, in effect, has in its hands the guidance of all cultural and ideological writings. Stalin has said: "The printed word is the sharpest and most powerful weapon of the Communist Party." After censorship the book goes back to the publishing house and is published, when the editor is ready to sign it.

Sometimes there is one other step in the process. Joseph Stalin takes an intense interest in literature. Sometimes in the small hours of the night a writer may get a telephone call. It is Stalin. He congratulates the writer on the book and sometimes gives keen and thoughtful advice. One book, The Great Mouravi, a novel about Stalin's birthplace, Georgia, by a woman writer, Anna Antonovskaya, had been sidetracked by the publishers until Stalin called her up and told her it was brilliant and gave her some additional information on Georgia.

Truth in Wartime. Do Russian writers tell the truth? The other night I heard the extremely popular, 29-year-old poet, novelist, playwright, scenarist, journalist and pamphleteer, Konstantin Simonov, publicly express the Soviet writers' attitude on truth:

"It is a prevalent opinion that a person who writes a novel or a book about a war during that war cannot be sufficiently objective. There is truth and error in such an opinion.

"Beyond a doubt, in wartime the writer will portray the Germans primarily as enemies who kill, burn and destroy our homes and our families. In some large, more permanent sense this may be sometimes unobjective. But this unobjectivity is far from clashing with the truth. Didn't the Germans burn our towns? Didn't they kill women and children? Didn't they hang and didn't they shoot? And is not the writer right who in wartime wants to write, and will write, primarily about this and only about this?

"The same applies to portraying the Soviet Army and the Russian people. It is quite natural that in wartime a patriotic writer is moved mainly by the people's courage, their heroism and their scorn of death. He is far less prone to dwell on other emotions which unquestionably do exist in people's hearts — on such feelings as a longing for home, on man's natural fear in the face of peril, on bodily fatigue and depressing thoughts.

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