Stalinism and literary culture

Steve Painter and Rose McCann spainter at optushome.com.au
Thu Dec 5 20:25:25 MST 2002


 A paragraph that was inadvertently left out of Bob Gould's post on
Stalinism and literary culture

Another important Australian writer who was "burnt by the sun" of Stalinism
in a very direct way was the novelist Christina Stead. Early in her creative
life she emigrated to London, and later to the US. In London she took up
with the Communist, New York Jewish writer and man of the world, Bill Blech,
who wrote under the pseudonym of William Blake. Stead wrote a wonderful
novel about the crisis in French society during the Stavisky Affair, The
House of All Nations. William Blake wrote three wonderful novels, one of
them The Copperheads, about the US Civil War, and the other two about the
evolution of capitalism in Spain. Stead and Blech went to the US and
eventually settled in California, where Stead became a Hollywood
scriptwriters mixing in the Communist subculture in Hollywood. During the
McCarthy period they re-emigrated to Britain. At the end of her life Stead
wrote an interesting novel about her experiences in the Communist and
Stalinist literary world, a complex, long and interesting book, called I'm
Dying Laughing. One of the high points of this book is a description of a
kind of trial conducted by the Stalinist literary figure generally believed
to be John Howard Lawson, within the Hollywood Stalinist literary circle.
Like Hardy' But the Dead Are Many, I'm Dying Laughing, is a useful
description of what it was like to be a Communist writer or artist during
the 20th century during the cultural dominance of high-Stalinism.


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