Critical Context

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

When Aksyonov published A Ticket to the Stars in 1961, he was one of many young writers dedicated to blazing new paths in Soviet literature, introducing themes and styles which until then were considered taboo. To be sure, the freedom emerging in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s was a relative one—writers could still not express themselves as freely as they wished—but the change was noticeable. Aksyonov played a significant part in this process with several short stories and novels, A Ticket to the Stars being perhaps the most important among them. His contribution included the use of a livelier and freer style. The dialogue is much more true to life and full of previously impermissible slang, although it is toned down considerably in translation. The author did not feel compelled to pattern his plot or characters after the prescriptions of Socialist Realism. Most important, the novel is not a period piece; it has lost little of its charm and pertinence with time.

Aksyonov eventually paid the price for his efforts to free Soviet literature from its confines. Forced to emigrate in 1980, he settled in the United States. Although Aksyonov’s later works are bolder, more experimental, than A Ticket to the Stars, this novel retains its significance as the first successful work of an unmistakable talent.