Although not unique to their works, or even to the Russian culture, several binary oppositions can be said to dominate the brothers' writings, among them: east versus west, individualism versus state, humanism versus Utopia, and past versus future. In the words of one Western critic, these themes "are given a particular slant by vicissitudes of Russia's twentieth-century history: the massive social upheaval of the revolution; Stalinism with its cultural amnesia and falsification of tradition; the crushing power of the State over any form of creativity, expressed in the institution of censorship with which the Strugatskys had to contend throughout their joint career; the sixties' "thaw"; and finally . . . the perestroika and the downfall of communism."
Hard to Be a God illustrates and evaluates several socio-historic theses, not all confined to the turbulent twentieth-century Russian history. It scoffs at the messianic impatience of revolutionaries who look for a quick fix to the enduring socio-evolutionary dilemmas of our times. Through the analogy between the foreign world and ours, the Strugatskys caution that taking on responsibility for an alien civilization is as thankless a task as shaping the history and social development of our own. In general, it is no accident that the cognitive and emotional impact of estrangement becomes especially apparent in the process of self-revelation. The envoy from our planet, striving to understand the...
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