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Socialist Realism and the Holocaust: Jewish Life and Death in Anatoly Rybakov's Heavy Sand

Gary Rosenshield
PMLA
Vol. 111, No. 2 (Mar., 1996), pp. 240-255
DOI: 10.2307/463104
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/463104
Page Count: 16
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
Socialist Realism and the Holocaust: Jewish Life and Death in Anatoly Rybakov's Heavy Sand
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Abstract

Anatoly Rybakov's Heavy Sand (ТЯЖеЛЫЙ Πecok; 1978), the first widely read work of Russian fiction since the 1930s to deal extensively with Jewish life during the Soviet period, is a bold-and problematic-attempt to overcome the negative stereotype of the Jew in Russian culture and to create a memorial to the Soviet Jews murdered by the Nazis. However, governmental and self-imposed censorship, socialist realism, and the narrator's conflicted Russian-Jewish identity vitiate this rehabilitative project. Rybakov's use of socialist realism to heroize the Jews and to present their destruction as part of a larger plot to exterminate the Slavs distorts and de-Judaizes the Soviet Jewish catastrophe of the Second World War. Heavy Sand is replete with tensions and contradictions. On the one hand, the author celebrates Jewish family life and writes of a memorial to murdered Jews that includes a potentially subversive Hebrew inscription; on the other, he denies the significance of Jewish identity and provides a Russian translation of the Hebrew inscription that accords with Soviet policy and ideology. In the end, Heavy Sand conceals more than it reveals about Jewish life and death in the Soviet Union; it represents an aesthetics of-and a testimony to-not remembering but forgetting.

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