Forwarded from George Shriver

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Tue Feb 4 07:11:58 MST 2003

(George is the translator of "How it All Began" and many other seminal
works of the Soviet opposition.)

Dear Louis,

I appreciate very much your review of the Bukharin novel, which I put a
couple of years of my life into translating.

I agree with you that the novel is an "unfinished masterpiece," and
among the passages you quoted was one from a favorite chapter---about
the outing in the woods.

Your explanation about "chinovniks" and how a "chinovnik state"
reappeared under Stalin is very "right on," in my opinion. And your
explanations about the environmentalist intentions of the early Soviet
government under Lenin and how that was perverted under Stalin add a lot
to people's understanding of that aspect of things. (The crime of
clear-cutting and deforestation, esp. in Siberia, is proceeding now at a
frantic pace under the post-Soviet chinovniks and profiteers.)

I'm curious: What is Swans ( to which this was your "first contribution")??

A couple of factual corrections.

(1) Bukharin completed "Philosophical Arabesques" the night of Nov. 7,
1937. (I have edited someone else's translation of that manuscript, and
am very familiar with it.) He didn't start VremenA until "five nights
later," as Stephen Cohen (Steve to me) explains in his Intro to "How It
All Began." That is, Bukharin began writing the novel on Nov. 12 (not
Nov. 7).

Incidentally, the Russian title of the novel, "VremenA," literally means
"Times"; suggesting figuratively, "O the Times we live in/have lived in")

(We could have chose "Time Passages" for the title, but that was already
taken. Steve came up with HIAB, & it's pretty good.)

(2) Volodya was not Bukharin's "oldest brother." Kolya Bukharin was the
oldest. Volodya was his younger brother --- or if you want, "oldest of
his younger brothers."

Needless to say, I don't agree with Steve that "Bukharin had much more
influence in the USSR than Trotsky ever did." How do you measure
"influence"? The whole industrialization program was something the Left
Opposition fought for (though not the way it was implemented) at a time
when Stalin in alliance with Bukharin was ridiculing industrialization.
As late as 1926 Stalin still pooh-poohed the idea of big industrial
construction projects, suggesting, "We need the Dnepropetrovsk project
about as much as a peasant needs a gramophone." And yet I think it's
fair to say that industrialization became a central feature of life in
the USSR Reflecting Trotsky's, and Lenin's, influence.

A pet peeve of mine, but it's a very minor point, and probably I should
just let it go, and not mention it. I don't like the use of "czarist"
rather than "tsarist." The spelling "czar" is a bastardization that came
into English somehow through Polish; the Polish "c" representing the
sound for which we use "ts." "Czar" was an attempt to render in Polish
the grandiloquent Russian title "tsetsar" or "ts'tsar --- which meant
super-tsar, on analogy with the Mongol "kha-khan" (Great Khan). The
Russian word meaning "king" is pronounced "tsar," and should be spelled
that way. A "kingdom" in Russian is "tsarstvo." The leap from the "realm
of necessity" to the "realm of freedom" is from "tsarstvo nuzhdy do
tsarstvo svobody." And of course you know the Russian word for a plan or
design is "proyekt."

(It's interesting that you didn't mention the "most political" chapter,
the debate between the Marxists and the SRs, but then there's so much in
the novel, it's impossible to mention everything.)

Once again, hats off to you for a fine review.

George Shriver


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