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Sofia Petrovna is a touching novel with its stark tragedies and complexities The frank tone in which Sofia Petrovna accepts and denies the circumstances within her life brings to life the reality of the Russian mindset during the purges of Stalin Although the author has repeatedly stated that she does not understand the aesthetics of her piece, only that it portrays the honesty of that period in time, it nevertheless holds the caliber of a written masterpiece.The reader is bound to feel for th Sofia Petrovna is a touching novel with its stark tragedies and complexities The frank tone in which Sofia Petrovna accepts and denies the circumstances within her life brings to life the reality of the Russian mindset during the purges of Stalin Although the author has repeatedly stated that she does not understand the aesthetics of her piece, only that it portrays the honesty of that period in time, it nevertheless holds the caliber of a written masterpiece.The reader is bound to feel for the mother, though at times frustrated with her blatant madness It is about the power of denial, the power of trust and most of all, the power of a lie imposed on a people through governance There is great acting in this novella I don t mean that this was cinematic, exactly I mean that I was able to see each character And there were a lot of characters, in that Russian way.This is a novel about The Great Purge Sofia Petrovna is a doctor s widow and a true believer She trains to be a typist after her husband dies, because everyone must work Her son joins the Komsomol Sofia Petrovna advances, is spotlighted as an ideal.And then, one by one, she sees people exposed as saboteur There is great acting in this novella I don t mean that this was cinematic, exactly I mean that I was able to see each character And there were a lot of characters, in that Russian way.This is a novel about The Great Purge Sofia Petrovna is a doctor s widow and a true believer She trains to be a typist after her husband dies, because everyone must work Her son joins the Komsomol Sofia Petrovna advances, is spotlighted as an ideal.And then, one by one, she sees people exposed as saboteurs, tried and convicted People she knows to be good, and good Soviets Her son, too.But to get back to the acting There s a woman at work We never hear her speak Yet we know her intimately Another doctor s wife is introduced to us Her eyesHER EYEStell us all we need to know, andEven Sofia Petrovna evolves from na vet , to doubt, to something beyond.Yes, this book may fill a gap in an understanding of the Communist system But the acting is brilliant And for my fellow booknerds I picked this up off the 2 clearance shelf largely because I really liked the other two European Classics series books I read The Life and Extraordinary Adventures of Private Ivan Chonkin and The Sins of Childhood and Other Stories This is really a spectacular series and ever expanding And I m hooked Lydia Chukovskaya s powerful short novel on the Stalin purges I found equally as fascinating as say Solzhenitsyn s A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, but the big difference here is Sofia Petrovna takes place not in some far away labour camp but right in the heart of Leningrad Chukovskaya writes not only about the tragedy of a family, but also that of a whole people caught up in the terror Sofia Petrovna the central character is widowed with a son, Kolya, a good student, who she is very prou Lydia Chukovskaya s powerful short novel on the Stalin purges I found equally as fascinating as say Solzhenitsyn s A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, but the big difference here is Sofia Petrovna takes place not in some far away labour camp but right in the heart of Leningrad Chukovskaya writes not only about the tragedy of a family, but also that of a whole people caught up in the terror Sofia Petrovna the central character is widowed with a son, Kolya, a good student, who she is very proud of, and after taking a job in a Leningrad publishing house, she flourishes well and soon becomes head typist Sofia Petrovna lives a simple life without bother, is happy in her work, and has bought into the Soviet system and accepts the changes that go with it, but her comfortable world is shattered after she learns that a large number of physicians in the city have been arrested, with one who was close to her husband As the arrests continue they start getting closer to home first the director of the publishing house, then, with devastation and great dread, Kolya As he like so many others has a clear support for the regime, Sofia Petrovna is convinced that nothing bad can happen to an honest man, believing it s a simple mistake, and she puts her heart and soul into trying to clear his name, and things go from bad to worse after she learns he is to be sent off to a camp of unknown whereabouts Kolya is an exemplary Soviet youth, and is innocent, but that of course doesn t matter Showing the Soviet madness from the perspective of a loving mother who has always been supportive of the regime is left just as baffled as the reader, as we are largely kept ignorant of what is truly happening behind the scenes Sofia Petrovna, seeing her son and so many others sentenced, suffers with great worry, and is in despair as the purging continues, but lucky in the fact that she is not found to be guilty by association When she does finally get word from her son, that only offers a small amount of relief, as her world has now become so insecure and unpredictable, where no one can be trusted that the concept of any hope or justice has become entirely lost.This is a work that is as sad as it is shocking and all too real, and even though the outline is bleak, Chukovskaya s chilling details are totally absorbing throughout, especially as Sofia comes only slowly to understand the true nature and magnitude of Stalin s purges It s a written in a simple and straightforward fashion, that effectively portrays a poisoned system where there is nowhere and nobody to turn to for help, as essentially, everybody is crushed and powerless Author s Note Sofia Petrovna Afterword From The Process of Expulsion A book that in many ways captures the general state of The Great Terror of 1930 s Soviet Russia, Sofia Petrovna is also a haunting tale of a woman who has lost everything and clings to hope in spite of it A dark story, the book explores a vast multitude of characters but it s Sofia herself whose rapidly changing life is the most interesting When people who she considers to never have done anything wrong begin to disappear, getting arrested and taken away, she convinces herself of one falseho A book that in many ways captures the general state of The Great Terror of 1930 s Soviet Russia, Sofia Petrovna is also a haunting tale of a woman who has lost everything and clings to hope in spite of it A dark story, the book explores a vast multitude of characters but it s Sofia herself whose rapidly changing life is the most interesting When people who she considers to never have done anything wrong begin to disappear, getting arrested and taken away, she convinces herself of one falsehood after another When it s her own son who is taken, things for her begin to get nightmarish and in the pursuit of security and safety, she does things that seem unthinkable.While this book could also be considered a timeless look at how a person copes with loss and trauma, Sofia Petrovna is ultimately a character study and a fictional portrayal of a very real and horrific event Chukovskaya herself was profoundly affected by her experiences with late 1930 s Russia, and although Sofia isn t an author insert by any stretch of the imagination, Chukovskaya s own life reflects in every page of this book USSR 1937 Enemy of the people These short words might as well be and often were a death sentence For you For your friends For your family For anyone connected with you For millions and millions of the Soviet people that have perished in the Great Purges, courtesy of the terror state run by paranoid and fanatical Comrade Stalin Little known factJoseph Stalin, the Secretary General of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union 1922 1953 , was nominated for the Nobel Peace Priz USSR 1937 Enemy of the people These short words might as well be and often were a death sentence For you For your friends For your family For anyone connected with you For millions and millions of the Soviet people that have perished in the Great Purges, courtesy of the terror state run by paranoid and fanatical Comrade Stalin Little known factJoseph Stalin, the Secretary General of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union 1922 1953 , was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1945 and 1948 for his efforts to end World War IIFrom www.nobelprize.org Who would nominate such a standup guy for the Nobel Peace Prize Hitler Enemy of the people The dreaded doorbell rings in the middle of the night, uniformed people drag you away from the crying family into a nondescript black car outside You think it must be a mistake, a misunderstanding desperately try to explain that you are a good worker from an honest peasant family Prison cells, vermin, hunger, torture, forced coinfessions Realizing that everyone else here has gone through the same thing Seeing your loved ones on the other side of the bars, lying to them that you ll be alright Exile to concentration camps if you are lucky, shot in the night otherwise Sofia Petrovna sees the other side of the Purges An apolitical middle aged woman, she goes from being a proud mother of a promising young engineer to being a mother of an enemy of the people And yet she still fails to understand that those other political prisoners poisoners, spies and murderers are innocent victims of the Stalin regime just like her son Kolya She fails to make the connection After all, USSR does not detain the innocents After all, the Party and the Party newspapers don t lie Thank you, dear Stalin, for our happy childhood Thank you, indeedThis is a chilling, gripping story of one of the darkest times in Russian Soviet history Written in a detached voice, it succeeds in conveying the suffocating terror, deceit and disbelief the Soviet people lived in And all I can think when reading it is please don t let me ever live through anything like this Ever.By the way, if you want to knowabout the Soviet Great Purges of 1930s, here is a handy Wikipedia link and another one as well One of the only, perhaps the narratives actually written during the Stalin era purges, Chukovskaya s long supressed novel detailing the terror of living in Leningrad in the 30s is a nightmare The reader feels the State s fist slowly closing over all areas of life leaving nothing but ground up lives in its clutch The author wrote this book in a school exercise book and kept it hidden in a desk drawer a certain death sentence if it were to be found Some very real skill in characterizati One of the only, perhaps the narratives actually written during the Stalin era purges, Chukovskaya s long supressed novel detailing the terror of living in Leningrad in the 30s is a nightmare The reader feels the State s fist slowly closing over all areas of life leaving nothing but ground up lives in its clutch The author wrote this book in a school exercise book and kept it hidden in a desk drawer a certain death sentence if it were to be found Some very real skill in characterization and story telling is displayed here I felt the bafflement, frustration and soul crushing hopelessness right alongside the heroine of the story For what it is, this is good What is it The social realist, small scale, human, truthful drama of a woman coming to terms with the abduction, by the Stalinist state, of her son Its power lies in its mundanity in its view of workplace politics, of state sponsored peer pressure, of mothers queuing for hours days months for the merest tidbits of information It has every appearance of complete truthfulness to life If I prefer my fiction a little less truthful to life, that s no fault of Lydia C For what it is, this is good What is it The social realist, small scale, human, truthful drama of a woman coming to terms with the abduction, by the Stalinist state, of her son Its power lies in its mundanity in its view of workplace politics, of state sponsored peer pressure, of mothers queuing for hours days months for the merest tidbits of information It has every appearance of complete truthfulness to life If I prefer my fiction a little less truthful to life, that s no fault of Lydia Chukovskaya s Maybe it could have gone further, though If its aim as stated by its author in the afterword was to show its protagonist s descent into madness, I don t think it quite gets there, but there s enough here to at least suggest how that descent might have proceeded As a reminder of what depths people can sink to through propaganda and political coercion, and the ways in which that coercion manifests itself at street level, this is powerful If nothing else it ll help put your Platonov, Zamyatin and Akhmatova in context 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 Wer 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 ^EBOOK ☙ Sofia Petrovna ↮ Sofia Petrovna is Lydia Chukovskaya s fictional account of the Great Purge Sofia is a Soviet Everywoman, a doctor s widow who works as a typist in a Leningrad publishing house When her beloved son is caught up in the maelstrom of the purge, she joins the long lines of women outside the prosecutor s office, hoping against hope for any good news Confronted with a world that makes no moral sense, Sofia goes mad, a madness which manifests itself in delusions little different from the lies those around her tell every day to protect themselves Sofia Petrovna offers a rare and vital record of Stalin s Great Purges