"Long Live Socialist Realism!"

In Context, I found an intriguing short piece by Dubravka Ugresic, a paean to socialist realism which, she notes, was a "happy art", but which has received from the critics "such a hammering that they have killed it stone dead. They were so bloodthirsty that they erased all trace of it."

Ugresic brings a direct viewpoint to the form:

"The art of socialist realism was not only happy, but also sexy. Nowhere have so many muscular and healthy bodies been put on display, so many entwined haymakers and tractor drivers, workers and peasants, strong men and women. collective_farmNowhere, to put it in contemporary terms, were so many Arnold Schwarzeneggers, Roseanne Barrs, and Sylvester Stallones joined into one powerful body. Socialist realism was an optimistic and joyful art. Nowhere else was there so much faith in a bright future and the definitive victory of good over evil."
Perhaps she gives the style a little more credit than it deserves when she suggests that:
"[m]ost of today's literary production bases its success on the simple socialist realist idea of progress. Bookstore counters are heaped with books which contain one single idea: how to overcome personal disability, how to improve one's own situation. Books about blind people regaining their sight, fat people becoming thin, sick people recovering, poor people becoming rich, mutes speaking, alcoholics sobering up, unbelievers discovering faith, the unfortunate becoming lucky. All these books infect the reading public with the virus of belief in a bright personal future. And a bright personal future is at the same time a bright collective future, as Oprah Winfrey unambiguously suggests to her impressive world audience."
She makes an excellent point. When we look at those old "tractor movies" (as I called them), we see a naive simplicty of plot and emotion. But is it really any less simplistic than the nostrums concocted by our contemporary icons? I don't think so.

May 17, 2004 in Art, Literature, Socialist Realism | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack