Bakhtin's Defence of the Novel against Stalinist Criticism

© 1997 Anthony R. Guneratne, Department of English Language and Literature, National University of Singapore

I am not aware of any English translation of the debates which took place in Moscow in December of 1934 and January 1935, but the various interventions of the disputants and the bloodcurdling attacks on writers and critics by their fellows, as well as György Lukács's long condemnation of the novel as the vehicle of bourgeois ideology (to which Bakhtin replied in "Epic and Novel") are all reproduced in Vittorio Strada's important book Problemi di teoria del romanzo (see, especially, 5-132, to see how much was at stake in the debate about the novel). Bakhtin was responding to Lukács's opportunism in the wake of the purge of the arts that was just beginning, and he was defending not only his fellow critics, many already stigmatized by the newly-derogatory epithet "Formalist," but also the banned Zamyatin (long dead in exile), the silenced Bulgakov, the soon-to-be arrested, tortured and executed Babel.

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