The “naked year” is 1917, the year of the Bolshevik Revolution, and Boris Pilnyak’s attempt to capture its essence in his narrative established him as Russia’s first important postrevolutionary novelist. It can be strongly argued that The Naked Year is neither in form a novel nor in substance a communistic document. The fragmentary, lyrical, relatively plotless and characterless series of vignettes that make up the book are more like a sequence of random impressions and rhetorical digressions, thinly tied together in time and place, than a controlled, directed narrative. The origins and essence of the revolution, as Pilnyak presents them, do not conform to the tenets of Soviet political dogma.
Despite its narrative difficulties and ideological impurity, The Naked Year was generally hailed as a masterpiece upon its publication in 1922. The main character of the book is the Russian people, and the substance of it is their diverse reactions to the civil turmoil that swept across Russia from 1914 to the early 1920’s. Although Pilnyak uses a mixture of prose styles and jumps from character to character and event to event with few formal transitions, he does focus most of the action in the town of Ordynin and on characters who represent all levels of Russian society—the Ratchin family belongs to the middle class, the Ordynins are aristocratic, Arkhip represents the rising peasantry—in a fairly complete, if unsystematic fashion....
(The entire section is 421 words.)