Reading Comprehension 005


For more than half a century now, polemical discussions have been raging around the concept of socialist realism, particularly in the Western world. Unfortunately, in India as a result of historical and other reasons, we continue to borrow from the West such views, concepts and interpretations that are often distorted. As a result the original conceptions are frequently turned into there very opposite. The concept of socialist realism is no exception.

The problem of correlation of content and form in the works of socialist realism generates the most stormy discussions and debates. However, a whole range of key notions have to be understood before we try to arrive at some measure of clarity on this question. A very eminent Soviet literary theoretician A.S. Myasnikove gives the following formulation of these complex questions: “The problem of studying artistic forms of socialist realism in all their diversity is linked with the solution of a large set of theoretical and historic–literary problems. Such questions include: studying art as a special form of social consciousness, importance of Lenin's theory of reflection, the subjective element in art, specificity of aesthetic reality, literary method, diversity of literary trends and creative individualities, stages of development of socialist realism and their peculiarities and many, many others." These questions have always been discussed in the current scenario.

At the very outset it must be observed that the correlation of content and form of a literary work has to be constantly and dynamically changing, depending on the change in the reality portrayal. The new reality is reflected in "aesthetic reality" as a result of the innovation in artistic forms. Writers themselves have often commented on this phenomenon, for example, the famous Soviet poet Vladimir Mayakovsky made a very apt remark in this context: "The storming of the Winter Palace (October 25, 1917) cannot be depicted in the manner of Les (The Forest) of Ostrovsky. As is well known, the volcano and the explosions which came in the aftermath of the October Revolution would need new forms for their artistic realisation."

Maxim Gorky in his article "On Socialist Realism", written in 1933, drew particular attention to the new forms generated by Soviet literature: "In it, i.e., in the young Soviet literature, there is already no small number of valuable accomplishments in the realm of form, the capturing of realty by Soviet literature is becoming much broader, it is a natural wish that it becomes deeper as well . . . this lofty point of view”, emphasised Gorky, "must and shall give rise to such a proud and happy aura of feelings, which will endow our literature with a new tone and tenor, facilitate the creation of new forms in it, create new direction, (i.e., socialist realism), which we so badly need. The spectrum of colours and poignancy of events surcharged with a high degree of revolutionary fervour, as also the complexity and diversity of real life situations required an equally rich multiplicity of forms for their artistic realisation. However, it must be observed that the multiplicity of forms is intimately linked with both subjective and objective factors. On one hand, this multiplicity depends on the talent and calibre of a writer, which was very emphatically pointed out by Belinsky, who remarked that a writer must "figure out such a form", which would correspond to the main ideas of his work as well as to the very object of portrayal. On the other hand, talent without an optimum blending of ideological content, could lead to both absurd contrivances and naked experimentalism. Consequently, it is imperative that thought must be given to spurring talent into a desired direction with a view to achieving an optimum harmony of ideological fibre and artistic texture.


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