Anatoli Rybakov M. Eidelman - Essay

M. Eidelman

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[Heavy Sand] grips one instantly. The vivid, multicolored pictures from the life of a little town in the Ukraine, the morals and manners of the Jewish craftspeople, the freedom and humor of narration … (p. 91)

The "homey" style of narration about life as it goes on ultimately creates a disintegrative effect, as between what is and what is to be. Between a life that prospers and its destruction …

In Heavy Sand the author does not analyze or philosophize. He puts facts in our hands…. But there is no fatiguing descriptiveness. It is simply that Rybakov is always in the realm of practical existence, and for him an emphasized "tangibility" is apparently a means of avoiding subjectivism. (p. 92)

It is as though the very concept of the novel is dredged up out of the mass of minor details of which life is made up, literally as out of some heavy sand, of many, many life stories, some of them funny…. What the author is saying is that the mainstream of human history is made up of millions of personal histories of every conceivable kind.

[The] underlying history of its characters takes shape in [Heavy Sand] little by little and through many complexities. The author does not romanticize his characters as heroes. Quite the contrary, in the beginning it would appear that he even debunks them. The main female character, the attractive Rachel, is entirely too practical-minded: and the entire Ivanovskii family, with its patriarch Abraham Rakhlenko at its head, is by no means inclined to miss a chance for personal gain. (p. 93)

The even tenor and practicality of life are merely the appearance of things. In the depths of the work one hears another motif, powerful and carrying events along. It is no accident that the main characters have names out of the Old Testament: Abraham, Jacob, Rachael…. The underlying plan of the work gradually takes shape, and its epic tonality makes itself heard.

This is felt, for example, in the delineation of Abraham Rakhlenko….

The author's emphasis on his hero's enormous physical strength asserts, as it were, the strength of certain eternal moral principles of existence.

It was not yesterday that those principles came into being. They were honed in the depths of a people's labors. Perhaps this is why the author found necessary the Old Testament names with their majestic ring, as though representing an obligation…. These people's principles emerge not in carrying out holy commandments carved on tablets; no, these principles live in the blood of a people and are reflected in hundreds of little things in everyday life. And therein lies the most dependable guarantee of the things to be accomplished in the future …

After the revolution the new generation of Ivanovskiis does not continue as craftsmen but works in factories and goes to college. A new human being takes shape, the builder of a new society. The...

(The entire section is 1234 words.)