As a work of literature [The Yawning Heights] is in many respects a disaster. At the same time it is the most thorough and profound examination of the Soviet regime, from the viewpoint of a disaffected intellectual, that has yet appeared….
Not a novel, The Yawning Heights is a frequently diffuse and inchoate mixture of lampoon, sober argument, diatribe and wild fantasy, its dominant tone one of monumental disgust. In a great many places its analyses of Soviet society are brilliantly incisive; in many others the book seems clumsy, turgid, repetitious and simply tedious. Its virtues come from Zinoviev's acute moral awareness and his intimate, brooding insight into the psychology of his people and their rulers. Its defects come largely from his inability, or unwillingness, to curb his own invention, to refrain from all-inclusiveness, and to observe the bounds of good taste….
The main intellectual threads of the book are to be traced in the monologues and dialogues of those figures who represent the intelligentsia—notably Dauber and several figures who seem to be spokesmen, at least in part, for the author himself—Bawler, Schizophrenic, Chatterer and Slanderer. Through them Zinoviev scrutinizes and savagely criticizes in depth almost every conceivable feature of Soviet existence and the Soviet moral climate. The Party, education, social institutions and behavior, individual and mass deception as a...
(The entire section is 577 words.)