Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


*Russia. Country in which the entire novel is set. In numerous vignettes, an almost fragmentary procession of interconnected scenes, the action moves from one (often fictitious) place to another, as if in passing, underscoring the whirlwind nature of the Russian Revolution. The narrative opens in the town of Ordynin and is generally centered there, but the overall stage is much larger than that.

While the fragmented plot does not allow for a unifying picture, it reflects the fragmentary nature of the happenings in various parts of the country. What gradually becomes clear is that Boris Pilnyak is not attempting to describe the revolution so much as voice his own views about it. He welcomes the revolution but in his own, unorthodox way. He was one of those considered “fellow travelers”—those who sympathized with the revolution without supporting it wholeheartedly or who had rather personal and often misguided understandings of it. Pilnyak saw the revolution as a clash between East and West in Russia, with Bolshevism, by getting rid of autocratic rule, bringing Russia back to its roots. Thus, his novel pits the spiritual culture of Russia against the mechanical culture of the West. The Old Russia of religious fervor and spiritualism, closeness to Mother Nature, and almost pagan adherence to the peasant way of life was almost obliterated by the West-leaning leaders, beginning with Peter the Great. Pilnyak failed to...

(The entire section is 593 words.)