Themes and Meanings

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

The main focus in A Tomb for Boris Davidovich is on revolution and the revolutionaries whose fate is a direct and inevitable outcome of the revolution. Every story in the novel is connected with this theme in one way or another. Five stories bear directly on the theme; one has a tenuous connection, while the story of Baruch David Neumann is used as a prototype for the later revolutionary zeal. It was clear that Ki had the Bolshevik Revolution in mind when he wrote A Tomb for Boris Davidovich, specifically its excesses and deviations.

Ki goes further than merely lamenting the failures of this revolution. He does not say that, if there were no excesses and deviations, everything would have been all right; he says that by its nature a revolution is “the sow that eats her farrow” and that Stalinism was the direct result of a fundamental disregard for human values. The aftermath of the Bolshevik Revolution is “darkness at noon” and the “God that failed,” to use the phrases of Arthur Koestler. In developing a dogma, the Revolution has created a new religion and a new morality, to which, as to every religion, ritual sacrifices must be made. The priests of this new religion are convinced of the righteousness of their dogma and are even surprised by “this sentimental egocentricity of the accused, their pathological need to prove their own innocence, their own little truths.” Instead, as Fedukin believes, “it was better that the...

(The entire section is 422 words.)