I find myself very interested by literature produced in the Eastern bloc under Communism. What are people’s favourite works of ‘Communist’ literature?
Most works that have been translated into English are generally anti-Communist, or at least satirical:
The usual classic cited is Bulgakov’s ‘The Master and Margarita’, which I enjoyed, but felt like I needed a study guide to get the references (luckily the edition I read had a great notes section).
Probably my favourite book that I’ve read in the last 10 years is Vasily Grossman’s ‘Life and Fate’. Grossman’s relationship to Communism and the powers that be was a bit complex. I’m always recommending this book to people with the warning that it is really long and often very depressing, but it is an incredible work. Grossman’s reportage (he was a journalist) on the concentration camps was some of the earliest, and is incredibly devastating, as is his imagining of the battle of Stalingrad.
I am also a fan of the work of Josef Skvorecky. His light-hearted style is refreshing, even when the subject matter is serious. I particularly enjoy his early detective stories (‘The Mournful Demeanor of Lt. Boruvka’ and ‘Sins for Father Knox’ are great). Much of his later work was written in Canada, but is about Life under Communism. His depiction of working for a state-controlled publishing house is fascinating.
What are your favourite works of Communist Literature, either about life in the Eastern Bloc, or from within it? Any kind of literature would be worth mentioning. I’m particular keen to read something (available in English) which is not from a whole-hearted critic of the regime(s). Did the pro-Communist side ever produce a work of great literature?