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Engineers of the Soul: In the Footsteps of Stalin's Writers

4.02  ·  Rating details ·  234 Ratings  ·  16 Reviews
Leta 1932 je Stalin prvikrat uporabil frazo ‘inženirji duše’ in z leti je to postal še predobro znan in zastrašujoč koncept. Pisatelji naj bi – enako kot pravi inženirji – pripomogli k definitivni utemeljitvi komunističnega paradiža ter pomagali zgraditi t.i. ‘novega človeka’. Pisateljem so oblasti kot dodatno nalogo namenile tudi hvalo graditeljev in tako so dela o ogromn ...more
Paperback, 306 pages
Published August 4th 2011 by Vintage (first published 2002)
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(showing 1-30)
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Lorenzo Berardi
I never like giving five stars to a book.
There is something of over enthusiastic in giving the highest marking to any work of art. I am definitely not a naively optimist person. Besides, I do indulge on excessive criticism.

But it's time to be honest.
Therefore, hands up! I'm defeated.
"Engineers of the Soul" won. And Frank Westerman's writing style won me over.

Back on December 2011 I had never heard about this book and its author.
The only Dutch journalist familiar to me (after a semester spent s
...more
Hella
Oct 09, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: geschiedenis
Dit was een fascinerend boek. Het eerste dat ik van Westerman gelezen heb, vanwege de leesclub. Ik heb nu eenmaal vaak grote moeite met non-fictie. Maar niet als het als reisboek vermomd is, als zoektocht, als de schrijver duidelijk laat uitkomen waar zijn eigen fascinatie vandaan komt, als hij de lezer aanwezig laat zijn bij de interviews zodat de informanten haast boekpersonages worden.
De ingenieurs van de ziel waren de schrijvers die van Stalin met hun grootse en meeslepende romans over de t
...more
Jeroen
Prachtig onderzoek naar de rol van schrijvers in de Sovjet Unie. Dit gekoppeld aan de grote waterbouwkundige werken, die werden ondernomen in de gloednieuwe republiek.
Veel aandacht is er voor Gorki en Paustovski.
"Meer nog dan de eigengereide onaantastbare denkers, fascineerden mij de hele en halve meelopers, de bekeerlingen, de afvalligen en de twijfelaars. Misschien wel omdat hun dilemma's en zwakheden zo herkenbaar zijn."
Lisa Hayden Espenschade
Jun 20, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone interested in Soviet-era writers
Recommended to Lisa by: review copy from the Overlook Press, thank you!
Engineers of the Soul is a thoroughly enjoyable piece of nonfiction about writers in the Soviet era and the strictures they faced: Westerman focuses on Konstantin Paustovsky but also offers details on the lives of Maxim Gorky and Andrei Platonov, among others. I was especially happy to read a bit about irrigation in the former Soviet Union.

(There's more about Engineers of the Soul on my blog, here.)
Josh Trapani
Dec 28, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014
This is a work of narrative nonfiction by a Dutch journalist (translated into English) focusing on some of the Soviet writers who had a more complex relationship with the regime than the famous dissident writers. He starts with Gorky but goes on to mention others including Platonov (this was helpful as I have The Foundation Pit on my shelves waiting to be read) and especially Paustovsky. "Engineers of the soul" is a quote from a high Party official about the role of writers, but also reflects th ...more
Toby Litt
Jan 17, 2013 rated it liked it
This is an eccentric book, which really should have a subtitle about hydro-engineering or Soviet canals - because a lot of pages are devoted to the links between vast waterworks and tyrannous regimes.

Westerman loosely follows in the wake of Soviet writer Konstantin Paustovsky. He is fascinated by Paustovsky's novel Kara Bogaz. He wants to find out the truth behind it.

Comparisons to Chatwin aren't valid. Westerman is nothing like that kind of original stylist. But it's worth reading for the hidde
...more
Mark Joyce
May 26, 2015 rated it liked it
The title and blurb may give the impression that this is a niche work that will appeal only to those with an interest in Soviet and/or engineering history. In fact the careerism, delusion and intellectual dishonesty evident in Westerman's subjects are likely to be familiar to anybody employed in a large organisation. If you happen to work in corporate communications in an engineering-related sector you may be sufficiently shocked by the parallels to do some serious reflection on your own career ...more
Frank Dedge
Jun 24, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is how non-fiction should be to me: not choking on endless details, build on a thrilling narrative and crisscrossing between different but related subjects.

In this particular case, Soviet Realism literary history is mixed with the subject of most of these books, hydraulic mega-projects. Following Gorki, Platonov and most of all Paustovsky, readers will learn about Stalinist purges, Turkmenistan customs and the hidden history of some of the gigantic canal projects that were at the core of t
...more
Delphine
Sep 27, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Opnieuw een boek met veel persoonlijke accenten van de eigenzinnige Westerman. Met als leidraad het leven van schrijver Konstantin Paustovski onderzoekt hij de verknechting van de Sovjetliteratuur voor, tijdens en na het Stalintijdperk. Als ingenieurs van de ziel stelden schrijvers zich tegen wil en dank op als opvoeders van het volk en hingen ze de sociaal-realististische doctrine aan (Boy meets tractor). De baai van Kara Bogaz en Bekdasj fungeren als achtergronddecor.
Nicole
Jul 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This was such a good book. Even though the topic was nonfiction, something I sometimes find boring, I found Westerman's writing style very fluid and captivating. You really get involved in the lives of some of these writers. It was also a good introduction into Russia's modern past and Stalin.
Linda Lamar
Mar 28, 2014 rated it liked it
Fascinating, obscure topic. I like the author's inspiration to write the book based on a discrepancy he found between two maps of the territory. Good writing makes the coverage of soviet salt basin mining surprisingly interesting.
Collin Case
Oct 26, 2013 rated it really liked it
The most interesting book on Hydraulic Engineering that I'll ever read.

In all seriousness, props to Westerman and his insane research in tracking the fractured history of Kara Bogaz, and furthermore, the curious rise of Soviet Realism.
Vilis
May 14, 2014 rated it really liked it
Interesants vēstures/ceļojuma/detektīvstāsta sajaukums, bet bišķi trūka sajūtas, ka tas viss patiešām dotos kādā noteiktā virzienā.
Kafka
May 11, 2014 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: russian
CSer Iva from Croatia/Slovenia recommends it! Russian engineering ambitions, social realism, and reality, told as a researcher travelogue
Jelle de Jong
leest als een trein. schokkend om de controle op literatuur te zien in het stalinistische tijdperk. en de manier waarop gedacht moest worden over indrukwekkend grote en ingrijpende waterwerken.
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Frank Westerman (Emmen, 1964) groeide op in Assen en studeerde Tropische Cultuurtechniek aan de Landbouwuniversiteit Wageningen. In 1987 woonde hij een jaar in de Andes van Peru, waar hij de irrigatiemethoden van Aymara-indianen onderzocht. Frank studeerde cum laude af en mag Ir. voor zijn naam zetten.

Zijn allereerste journalistieke reportages schreef Frank toen hij nog studeerde. Zo versloeg hij
...more
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