Last Updated on September 5, 2023, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 321
Vassily Aksyonov's 1961 novel centers around four rebellious youths who, in the face of totalitarianism, defy the dictates of society and pursue their paths in light of their dreams.
A recurrent motif is the improvisational alternative order of music, which ranges from jazz to symphonic music. In one scene, the perception of sound gives rise to metaphysical questions about the nature of the universe:
From the bottom of the park come the sounds of jazz. The wheel goes round and round and so does the whole little ball of our earth, stuffed with mystery. The whole park is moving and so are the people inside of it.
The concept of "mystery," as such, is antithetical to Soviet materialism; as such, the perception of mystery that is afforded by music is, itself, forbidden.
In order to show how questions about political liberation emerge from aesthetic and experiential phenemona, Aksyonov represents aesthetic and sensory perception (as encountered at the park) as giving rise to much larger ontological and political questions:
What is the relation between these movements—just try to work it out. Jazz and symphony. Here is our sky, so suitable for fireworks and the flight of large, deadly rockets.
In this passage, the sky is both a space of display and a medium through which weapons of war might pass.
One of the four main characters is Dimka, whose older brother is Victor, a Soviet scientist. Victor tells his younger brother:
Dive into the depths of the sea, climb mountains, fear nothing, all this is your world.
This is, in effect, a counter-revolutionary directive, as it implies a strong sense of individual freedom as manifested in the choice to pursue multiple paths.
When Victor dies, Dimka reflects that:
Whatever happens, this is now my ticket to the stars. Whether he knew it or not, Victor left this ticket to me. But where will the ticket take me?
Aksyonov leaves the question open.