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    Palmer, Isobel 2016. The Palgrave Handbook of Literature and the City. p. 197.

  • Print publication year: 2011
  • Online publication date: May 2011

4 - Prose of the Revolution


Revolution, writer, episode

The Revolution, taken episodically, appears quite insignificant. Where is the Revolution, then? Here lies the difficulty. Only he will overcome it who fully understands and feels the inner meaning of this episodic character and who will reveal the historic axis of crystallization that lies behind it. ‘Why do we need solid houses?’ the sect of Old Believers used to say. ‘We are awaiting the coming of Christ.’ Nor does this Revolution build solid houses; instead it concerns itself with resettlement [pereselenie], increases of residential density [uplotnenie], and construction of barracks. All of its institutions give the impression of being temporary, barrack-like. But not because it awaits the coming of Christ, that is, contrasts its final aim with the present process of building life, but because, on the contrary, it strives in endless gropings and experiments to find the best ways of building a house that is solid.

In a few charged sentences Trotsky offers his readers a remarkable reformulation of the entire Bolshevik project. An act of cosmic creation, it does not (we are told) derive its legitimacy from an infinitely deferred redemption – the arrival of a messianic age. Instead, its meaning must come from a particular kind of ongoing revelation. What the Revolution needs is someone who will explain it to itself by figuring out how the various pieces of the existential and ideological puzzle ought to fit together. And that someone must be a writer.

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The Cambridge Companion to Twentieth-Century Russian Literature
  • Online ISBN: 9780511975806
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