Stalin’s Scribe: Literature, Ambition, and Survival: The Life of Mikhail Sholokhov

Brian J. Boeck. Pegasus, $29.95 (396p) ISBN 978-1-68177-874-7
Boeck (Imperial Boundaries), former professor of Russian and Soviet history at DePaul University, paints a nuanced portrait in this literary biography of a Nobel Prize–winning Russian novelist and accused (but exonerated) plagiarist. A “prize protégé” of Josef Stalin, a target of rival novelist Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, and called by Salman Rushdie a “patsy of the regime,” Sholokhov was a controversial figure of the Soviet era. Boeck vividly relates how Sholokhov, whose fate “hinged on satisfying a dictator’s literary cravings,” reached success during a time when other Soviet authors were being censored and imprisoned (and accusing Sholokhov of plagiarism); he survived secret police plots to frame him and defended friends wrongly charged as anti-Communists, while writing articles, speeches, plays, and the epic And Quiet Flows the Don. Boeck also depicts Sholokhov’s slow and painful fall from grace after Stalin’s death in 1953, when “every certainty he had known for two decades had suddenly been thrown into question” and copies of a regime-approved “improved” version of Quiet Don appeared on Soviet bookshelves. Boeck’s portrayal of his subject’s international ill-fame, habit of hiding his emotions, clashes with Stalin’s successor Khrushchev, and drinking bouts make this a deeply engaging take on an important literary figure. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 11/26/2018
Release date: 02/05/2019
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 400 pages - 978-1-64313-479-6
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