Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Although ostensibly a work of science fiction, “Pkhentz” may be read as a satiric allegory on the tragic consequences of the Russian Revolution, as well as a commentary on the plight of the creative artist in the Soviet Union. The alien lands in the Soviet Union in the first part of the twentieth century, at the time of the Russian Revolution in 1917. Abram Tertz (the pen name Andrei Sinyavsky used for political reasons) suggests that the Bolshevik seizure of power was a mistake similar to the mistaken crash-landing of the alien spaceship that went off course and took seven and a half months to land, approximately the same amount of time between the Russian Revolution in February, 1917, and the Bolshevik seizure of power in October, 1917.

The Russian Revolution, like the crash-landing, was an unintended, chance happening. The alien states: “In fact we had no intention of flying into space . . . we were going to a holiday resort. . . . Then . . . something occurred, . . . we lost buoyancy . . . and down we fell, into the unknown, for seven and a half months we went on falling . . . and by pure chance we landed up here.” The alien, like Robinson in Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe (1719), is the sole survivor and must face the problem of adapting himself to a hostile environment. “The air was wrong, the light was wrong, and all the gravities and pressures were strange.”

Tertz draws an analogy between the alien’s hostile...

(The entire section is 560 words.)