Yuri Krotkov The Times Literary Supplement - Essay

The Times Literary Supplement

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

In September, 1963, Mr. Krotkov, one of a visiting delegation of Soviet film-workers, walked out of his hotel and down the Bayswater Road wearing his three shirts and two suits one on top of the other and asked for political asylum in Britain. [The Angry Exile] is an attempt to record the thoughts and experiences that brought him to this decision and at the same time to expose to the English-reading public the Soviet myth.

There is no doubting that Mr. Krotkov is a sincere man, and an angry man, as he reiterates. He was also a brave man…. But these qualities are not enough in themselves to make for a convincing denunciation of Soviet society…. Sometimes Mr. Krotkov is willing to repeat hearsay when his book's chief claim on our attention is that it is a record of direct experience; at other times he falls back on extremely vague general notions of what human nature needs but is denied by the Soviet system.

All this is a great pity, because in his experience there is the material for a very telling denunciation, had it been organized by a colder and more discriminating eye. Where he describes the endless and unpredictable procedures for obtaining an exit visa—in no way overdone—comment is not needed, and once or twice he touches, almost without realizing it, on the gravest of all criticisms of the present Soviet regime: many hardships can be justified if there is equality of sacrifice; but where a privileged class drive about in cars to buy special consignments of foreign goods and where truck-drivers call them bourgeois and parasites, what is left except power to justify the Communist Party of the Soviet Union? Mr. Krotkov's lack of insistence on these incidents, while it in a way confirms their authenticity, also reflects the sad truth that fifty years of communist slogans too often produce in the dissident intelligentsia a total and undiscriminating reaction rather than an attempt to re-endow the slogans with meaning.

"Over the Wall," in The Times Literary Supplement (© Times Newspapers Ltd. (London) 1967; reproduced from The Times Literary Supplement by permission), No. 3408, June 22, 1967, p. 554.