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News

“A Book that Surprised the World…”

25.01.2018

90 years ago, in January 1928, the journal “Oktyabr” published the first chapters of the novel «And Quiet Flows the Don» by M.A.Sholokhov, one of the greatest works of the world literature. The readers accepted the novel enthusiastically: already in January and February the journal received thousands of letters with response.

The publication of the first book completed, the newspaper “Pravda” published in April 1928, an article by A.S.Serafimovich, who highly appreciated the novel and compared Mikhail Sholokhov to a young eagle with his huge wide open wings. A.V.Lunacharsky, People’s Commissar of Education, in his interview for the German newspaper “Rote Fane” noted that “the yet unfinished novel «And Quiet Flows the Don» is a work of exceptional power in the breadth of pictures, knowledge of life and people, in the bitterness of its plot. This work resembles the best phenomena of Russian literature of all times.” The press published a number of articles and reviews with positive comments on the novel.

But the assessment was not unanimous. The opinions differed in the journal “Oktyabr” even when the first book was being discussed, and only thanks to the perseverance of A.S.Serafimovich the novel was released. The very theme of Cossacks caused misunderstanding, rejection and condemnation among the critics. At the plenary session of the Russian Association of Proletarian Writers, V.Yermilov, editor-in-chief of the journal “Molodaya Gvardiya”, noted: “When the author depicts a Cossack everyday life, a Cossack way of life, when – briefly – the threads are tightened around Grigory Melekhov, Sholokhov has enough colours and skills, and artistically shown details. But when the threads are tightened on the other pole – around worker Bunchuk or Stokman, these personages start talking in newspaper language…”

The press launched a discussion, where Sholokhov was called “not proletarian”, was accused of “admiring kulak satiety”, of “Cossackmanism”, of “slipping down onto alien positions”, and so on. And after the journal “Oktyabr” was submitted the third book of the novel devoted to the Upper Don insurrection caused by the policy of Cossack deletion, there began a real persecution of the author. The third book shocked the leaders of the Russian Association of Proletarian Writers, and the publication of the book was suspended without explanation. Sholokhov was accused of “justification for the uprising” and was demanded to make fundamental changes of the novel.

However the young writer courageously and steadfastly endured the attacks and refused to make changes. The third book of the novel «And Quiet Flows the Don» was allowed for publication only after the meeting of Sholokhov and Stalin in June 1931. The novel continuation was published in issues 1–8 and 10 of the journal “Oktyabr” in 1932.

The publication of the novel «And Quiet Flows the Don» was completed in 1940. In the same year he was awarded the Stalin Prize. However, during the consideration of Sholokhov's candidacy again there was heard a slashing ideological criticism: “Such an end of the novel – is it a design or an error? I think it is an error” (A.Tolstoy); “…We are all offended by the end of the novel in the best Soviet feelings” (A Fadeyev); “…The mistake lies in the fact that the creative, positive aspects of the epic, enemies of the enemies, that Comrade Stalin spoke about, are not shown in the novel” (A.Dovzhenko).

The novel «And Quiet Flows the Don» was actively published abroad. The first foreign edition was issued in Berlin, in October 1929. Early in 1930, the novel was published in France, Sweden, the Netherlands, Spain and Czechoslovakia, in 1931 – in Japan and China, in 1932 – in Denmark, in 1934 – in Great Britain (where there were ten publications within four months!), in Bulgaria, Poland, the USA and other countries. An enormous interest for the novel was said about in the foreign press: “ «And Quiet Flows the Don» by Sholokhov is not only a literary event. It is both a recognition and discovery of the people…” (newspaper “Die Literatur”, Germany); “«And Quiet Flows the Don» is a book that surprised the world” (“Sunday Graphic and Sunday News”, Great Britain); “Sholokhov’s «And Quiet Flows the Don» literally breathes poetry… Throughout the novel Sholokhov remains an artist, not a propagandist…” (“New-York Times”, the USA).

In 1965, the Nobel Committee awarded M.A.Sholokhov the honorary title of Nobel Prize in literature in recognition of his artistic power and integrity as creator of an epic on the historic years of the Russian people”.

The novel with a difficult fate still arouses enormous interest of the readers. The name of Sholokhov enters the list of the most prominent Russian people of the latest 100 years. The readers named him one of the five outstanding Russian men of letters. “The novel «And Quiet Flows the Don» by Sholokhov will live and awake in readers deep feelings, and great reflections, and disagreement with the author, and disputes, and love, and gratitude to the author for the beautiful art” – these words said by A.N.Tolstoy in 1940, in the year of the epic completion, turned out to be prophetic.

Tatyana Nektova
Olga Bakhtiyarova