I am interested in analyzing this passage from Kataev’s “Time Forward”:
Nalbandov was deaf. He refused to hear. Amortization and quality, he thought to himself. His glance glided carelessly over the room. Everywhere-newspapers, newspapers, newspapers … Newspapers spotted with portraits of heroes. Ribbons of heads. Columns of heads. Stairways of heads. Heads, heads, heads.
Loaders, concrete mixers, armature men, muckers, scaffolding men, carpenters, rigging men, chemists, draftsmen … Old, young, middle-aged. Caps, Mankas, hats, visored caps, tiubeteikas … Names, names, names.
Fame! Was this fame?
Yes, this was fame! This was real fame. It was precisely thus that fame was made. Fame was made “here,” but it might be cashed in on-“there.”
In her article, Clark argues that Socialist Realism relied on a notion of “Great Time,” which upheld the legends of 1917, the Civil War, and “critical moments in Stalin’s life” (40) as a kind of platonic form. The present, was merely a particular manifestation of this form, this “great time.” How does this theory figure into the above passage? Is the fame and newspapers which the protagonist discusses merely a record of achievements which reflect the epic heroes of the revolution, the Civil War, and the Stalinist era? What is the significance of this reduction of Soviet heroes to “heads” and “names”?
He glanced sideways at Shura Soldatova. Crouched on all fours and moving her tongue in a childish way, she was pasting a photograph of Margulies on the page of the wall newspaper.
According to the committe’s “Resolution on Zvezda and Leningrad” good Socialist Realist literature is supposed to be devoid of the erotic. I cannot help but feel that the above passage shows the protagonist looking at Soldatova with a lusty male gaze.
Yes, this is fame, he thought, and 1 am foolishly letting it go by me. One must make a name for himself, a name, a name.
The name must be printed in newspapers. It must be mentioned in reports. It must be argued about, repeated in meetings and disputes.
It was so simple! All that was necessary to attain it was the technical level of the time. Suppose that level was low, elementary? Suppose it was a thousand times lower than the level of Europe and America, although it seemed higher?
The epoch demanded adventurism. And so, one must be an adventurist. The epoch did not spare those who fell behind or disagreed.
Yes, this was fame.
And to-day he let an opportune occasion slip past him.
What could be simpler?
One must be on the level of his time, take the business of record-setting in his own hands, organize it, move it, advertise it, be the first …
He had committed a tactical error, but it was not yet too late. There would be a thousand such opportunities ahead of him.
This whole idea of record-setting and the elevation of the individual seems to represent a contradiction in the ideal of “good Socialist Realist literature.” Though there are certainly tones of heroic “collective labor” in this passage, it nonetheless expresses an overwhelming desire for personal success. How can Socialist Realist literature then reconcile these conflicting objects of praise (the collective and the individual)? Perhaps the protagonist only wants praise in that he would be entering the canon of Soviet record-setters. By breaking industrial records his name would be recorded in the great time of 1917, the Civil War, and Stalin.