Vladimir Shlapentokh

Ноябрь 9, 2014

Moby Dick and the Russian revolution: an intellectual bagatelle

Filed under: Uncategorized — shlapentokh @ 11:05 пп

Moby Dick and the Russian revolution: an intellectual bagatelle

Vladimir Shlapentokh

I finished  finally Moby Dick , probably the first «production» novel in the world literature. Later after  Melville “production” novels  became very popular  in the USA and then also in Soviet Russia. Upton Sinclair ‘s Jungle or  Theodore Dreiser’s novels like The Titan can be treated as the representatives  of this genre but, of course particularly Artur Hailey’s numerous novels devoted to the description various sectors of American economy like Airport or Wheels which we read  in 1960s  with delight in Moscow .  John Grisham’s novels like Firm or Client also belong to “production literature”. However, how much  they all yield to Moby Dick in quality!  I should non even mention best  Soviet  «production novels» which the party demanded from its writers like Panova’s  Kruzhilikha  or Nikolaieva’s  Harvest. How bleak they all –American and Soviet production novels— look in comparison with Moby Dick , its passion, its philosophical and religious reflections, its historical digressions!!     What stroke me however  in Moby Dick it was not its production side. It was a brilliant, almost Orwellian, description of a type of  revolutionary  society where not only the leader, captain Ahab who looks as a revolutionary fanatic, but the whole team, or the whole nation, turned out to be devoted to a great idea— to kill the great whale in one case, or to build a just society in another. The analogy between Ahab’s  utopian dream to kill the whale which became his obsession , and the utopian dreams of the Russian Bolsheviks look for me almost self-evident.  It is unbelievable  but even the idea of death which never quits the novel—from the beginning to the end- is very close to the spirit of the Russian revolution which always demanded from its followers be ready to die for the cause. Igor Shafarevich was very shrewd when he drew the attention to this peculiarity of the Russian revolution citing the famous line from one of the revolutionary songs  —«we should all die for this cause». Indeed, all who were on “Pequod”, Ahab’s ship, died in a seemingly senseless fight with whale with the exception  of the supposedly future author -Ishmael . But are not million revolutionary fanatics and those whom they managed to enroll in their also senseless  fight died too? In generally. Moby Dick is an apology of irrationality if it feeds passion.

.The power of the idea is brilliantly shown  in the novel. Even  the most cynical members of the teams could not resist it.( While Ahab could easily use the repressive methods to enforce  his will, it was his passion which conquer the sailors and made them the obeisant instrument of his design.

No rational calculations, no warnings against the attempts to realize the utopian idea  could stop neither the captain, not his subordinates. It is also  amusing but Ahab as much as an internationalist as Lenin. His team contained the representatives  of all nations on the earth as Lenin’s  Red Army or Cheka. As a true revolutionary Ahab is ascetic and demands from  his sailors to get rid of l passions  playing only very weakly  once with a money incentive.In its asexualism Mobi Dick surpasses even the most revolutionary novels of the Russian revolution.

like   Dmitry Furmanov’s Chapaev or Alexander  Fadeev’s Defeat.

The comparisons between the developments on Pequot and in revolutionary Russia how exotic they look ultimately has simple explanation. The number of the models which describe  human relations are very limited as well as the principles which fregulate human relations.

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