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"Spufford cunningly maps out a literary genre of his own . . . Freewheeling and fabulous." ―The Times (London)
Strange as it may seem, the gray, oppressive USSR was founded on a fairy tale. It was built on the twentieth-century magic called "the planned economy," which was going to gush forth an abundance of good things that the lands of capitalism could never match. And just for a little while, in the heady years of the late 1950s, the magic seemed to be working. Red Plenty is about that moment in history, and how it came, and how it went away; about the brief era when, under the rash leadership of Khrushchev, the Soviet Union looked forward to a future of rich communists and envious capitalists, when Moscow would out-glitter Manhattan and every Lada would be better engineered than a Porsche. It's about the scientists who did their genuinely brilliant best to make the dream come true, to give the tyranny its happy ending.
Red Plenty is history, it's fiction, it's as ambitious as Sputnik, as uncompromising as an Aeroflot flight attendant, and as different from what you were expecting as a glass of Soviet champagne.
settled down over the years since Marx’s death as ‘Social Democrats', running parliamentary political parties which used the votes of industrial workers to get exactly the kind of social improvements that Marx had said were impossible under capitalism. Social Democrats still dreamed of the socialist future; but here and now they were in the business of securing old-age pensions, unemployment insurance, free medical clinics, and kindergartens equipped with miniature pinewood chairs. Except in
writers: that’s extremely important to me.’ Galich nodded sagely. Ah, that kind of lunch. But what if, he didn’t say, the censor’s spite was not just their own? What if the spite was shared and obdurate, and offered no room for manoeuvre, could be eased by no amount of charm? A couple of years back, judging that the spasm of hate stirred up by Stalin would have died away, and normal service been resumed, he’d dusted down an old play of his, about a typical Soviet family, by chance a Jewish one,
had had one of the happy childhoods Stalin had promised would someday be universal, and had ardently desired to defend it, to stop class enemies and kulaks and fascists from threatening the components of the good place he lived in, as he knew them: the hard earth path from the dacha to the lake, under the resiny pines, and the yellow oilcloth lampshade in his parents’ book-filled apartment, and shovel-handed Masha the nanny, in whose name he loved all the peasant Mashas and Ivans populating the
that lives in the undergrowth.’ ‘Oh, marvellous. Can’t they spray, or something?’ ‘They did, two years ago. Dusted off the whole area with DDT, using a jet engine for a fan. But apparently the little fuckers are back. You’re still puzzled,’ he observed. ‘It’s not just the talking,’ she said. ‘It’s what you say. You all sound like – I don’t know. I couldn’t work out, back there, whether I was listening to bohemians disguised as good boys, or good boys disguised as bohemians. You babble like
little monarchs found themselves. There had been a period, under Stalin, when the security police seemed to be supplanting them, but Khrushchev had restored the supremacy of the apparat. Here was another reason for the baggy suits. Earlier, at the turbulent beginning of Lenin’s state, the Party’s operatives had signified their power by using the direct iconography of force. They wore leather jackets and cavalry coats, they carried visible revolvers. Stalin’s Party, later, dressed with a vaguely