Themes and Meanings

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

Several themes are woven throughout the fabric of Farewell from Nowhere, the most obvious one being the redemptive power of compassion as it is embodied in the lives of individuals and institutions. At one point, Vlad describes himself as a baton being passed in a relay race and acknowledges that his survival has often depended upon the kindness of others, some poorer than himself, without whose help he certainly would have perished. Equally conspicuous is the absence of any such benevolence in the workings of the Stalin regime, and here Maximov unleashes his fiercest contempt. Throughout the novel Maximov creates vivid portraits of people who have allowed their “official duties” and political zeal to nullify their humanity. On one occasion Vlad meets a journalist from the West, a smug advocate of socialist ideas and “progress,” who dismisses the Russians’ religious faith as naive. Vlad is unimpressed with this soulless foreigner; Vlad has witnessed the socialist experiment at first hand and knows it to be only a political abstraction in which the value of human life becomes unreal. An especially poignant image is his recollection of the prison riot at Butyrki, where he overheard the disturbing plea of “Let me shoot too, Daddy!” coming from the eight-year-old son of the prison warden.

A political structure so prone to inequity inevitably breeds corruption in its individual citizens, and the struggle to retain personal integrity emerges as another challenge to the characters. For Vlad, this comes to mean preserving his artistic integrity, as well, though it may be a handicap to worldly survival. He must walk an even narrower...

(The entire section is 680 words.)