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The House of Government: A Saga of the Russian Revolution
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House of Government > House of Government Book Three, Part V (23-27)

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Biblio Curious (bibliocurious) | 164 comments This section brings us into Book 3, On Trial & Part 5, The Last Judgment. The chapter titles are ominous sounding so it can only mean the beginning of the end.


message 2: by Dianne (last edited Mar 20, 2018 11:18AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Dianne | 0 comments Chapter 23 - The Telephone Call - This chapter was rather bizarre. We learn that Kirosev was murdered, then there are many pages about various crimes committed throughout the world, satanic cults, child abusers, and scapegoats that society designates in connection with those crimes. Not until the last couple of pages do we return to the topic at hand, the 'concentrated violence' of the time and how the Kirosev murder resulted in a vast moral panic. The fear of hidden enemies and the rise of Hitler - it is clear that Slezkine was turning a sharp corner from the happy children, dachas and cozy libraries of the House that he described in earlier chapters.


Dianne | 0 comments Chapter 24 - The Admission of Guilt - This chapter should be called - the finding of the guilty! It seems everyone was turned into a spy, and in fact that seemed to be the key objective at this point - to identify traitors. It didn't seem to take much to result in an arrest and criminal sentence or death. False confessions seemed to proliferate. Even suicide was used as a tactic to 'confuse' oppositionists.


Dianne | 0 comments Chapter 25- The Valley of the Dead - This chapter addresses the "liquidation of the consequences of the destructive work of saboteurs, spies and wreckers." Hmmm. Sounds ominous. Stalin regularly read interrogation transcripts that were sent to him and "suggested new lines of investigation." There were arrest quotas - on one day at least 11,000 arrests were required, but up to 20,000 would be acceptable Ruthlessness, mass operations and harsh sentences abounded.


Hugh (bodachliath) | 138 comments Mod
I must admit that I felt Slezkine was losing his perspective in Chapter 23, and has probably been reading too many conspiracy theories...


Dianne | 0 comments Hugh wrote: "I must admit that I felt Slezkine was losing his perspective in Chapter 23, and has probably been reading too many conspiracy theories..."

it really took a sharp turn! I can understand that paranoia was heightened, but I wonder if it was really as bad as he describes. It seems like you would have to live assuming anyone and everyone could be against you. Reminded me of The Handmaid's Tale a bit.


Biblio Curious (bibliocurious) | 164 comments I haven't read up to here yet, so....

They were living under Stalin during this time & it's nicknamed "Time of Terror" Folks tend to gossip & they all live in such close quarters so perhaps that would exaggerate the stories? Folks can get worked up into a flurry easier than usual? It sounds like a modern day witch hunt.


Biblio Curious (bibliocurious) | 164 comments Eep!! I just read chapter 23 yesterday ... he's losing perspective for sure. I tried to see how that section could fit into the chapter and I just can't. It's very jarring & out of place.

Still trying to see why he'd include it .... Is it to say, listen every country has done horrific things that are incredibly shameful & tough to pin down? He's mentioning 'cleansing' in the form of genocide that happened in Russia around here too. Does Russia deny genocide happened or doesn't want to reveal any of the historical remnants of it? So Russia's history of genocide is also tough to pin down? Or is there no connection whatsoever & that weird court case was just included for some other agenda?

*skeptical eye on the book & resumes reading*


Biblio Curious (bibliocurious) | 164 comments They can choose the books they bring with them to prison? It's a brief line on page 782. "Voronsky spent the year 1936 waiting to be arrested ... He prepared a stack of books on philosophy to take to prison with him."

There's so many things to consider from this & it can be looked at from so many different points of view.


Dianne | 0 comments Chapter 26 - The Knock on the Door - With a title to a chapter like this, you almost know what to expect. Kirov is killed, and oppositionists are rounded up and imprisoned. Then we have a switch over to all of the fine reading that is done in prison, and a digression about the merits of Gogol. At this point in the book I am finding the flip flopping from historical narrative to digression about the arts and literature at the time to be rather jarring. It's tough to go from "Last night NKVD agents came and took Mommy away" to "the key to Gogol's genius, according to Voronsky, was his dual nature..." I found the approach charming earlier in the book, but I admit it is wearing on me at this point. Did anyone else have that reaction?


Dianne | 0 comments Chapter 27 - The Good People - My goodness at this point they have arrested many of our House residents! 68 apartments were "occupied by families of arrested residents" and "142 rooms had been sealed by the NKVD." Everyone seemed to accept the mass arrests, or believe it behooved them to adopt a policy of utter silence for their own sakes. Life was all about suspicion, loyalty and betrayal, and the trials were captured broadly on worldwide media.


Dianne | 0 comments Biblio wrote: "I haven't read up to here yet, so....

They were living under Stalin during this time & it's nicknamed "Time of Terror" Folks tend to gossip & they all live in such close quarters so perhaps that w..."


exactly right, I think it was a witch hunt! I don't know how anyone could stay sane under such circumstances.


Dianne | 0 comments Biblio wrote: "Eep!! I just read chapter 23 yesterday ... he's losing perspective for sure. I tried to see how that section could fit into the chapter and I just can't. It's very jarring & out of place.

Still t..."


I don't think there is any denial, it is broadly publicized. Slezkine's approach in general is odd, he drops in random letters, trials, arrests, gatherings, descriptions of furniture, food, what have you. It's odd.


message 14: by Hugh (new) - rated it 5 stars

Hugh (bodachliath) | 138 comments Mod
I am not sure that Slezkine was clear in his own mind about the scope of the book. I wondered whether the starting point was the literature...


Dianne | 0 comments Hugh wrote: "I am not sure that Slezkine was clear in his own mind about the scope of the book. I wondered whether the starting point was the literature..."

it's a good point, I think he has a passion for literature and so he either led with that or couldn't help adding it in. You know, I almost wonder if he is mentally sound though, I hate to say it. So much of what he added is fascinating in its own right, but the random juxtaposition of it all seemed a bit crazy to me!


Biblio Curious (bibliocurious) | 164 comments Literature & Russian history are tied together more than in other countries I think. They just have a tradition of their writers creating stories that build on each other & give a social commentary. Their literature is one long, tightly woven conversation.

Russian history and revisionist history theories could be interesting to investigate. What parts of Russia's history were lost to us, why? I'm sure every country has left out parts of history (usually women, poor people, non-whites & those who lost the battles)

If Slezkine went down that road of trying to uncover some of the revised history ... I can't imagine how much stress or unanswered questions he would find.

His quest of gathering letters, organizing them into some order that tells a chronological story, fills in the missing pieces so we can read it & make some sense of it & translate everything into English is a monsterously huge task to set on anyone. And all on a deadline with a budget!! Can you imagine what his workspace would look like while he's writing this book? Surely, it would look like the space of a madman O.O So perhaps some of his marbles got jostled while writing this.

He would know these people so well by the time he's in the final stages of editing that it would be hard to keep a linear approach to the story. If he had ghost writers & others to help with the editing, I can't imagine the conversations they've had when disagreements came up about how to lay something out.


Biblio Curious (bibliocurious) | 164 comments The juxtaposition of that weird court case, I just can't see the connection it has with the rest of the story. Regardless of his point to include it, there's clearer ways to make a point. If he wants to say: Russia did some shameful things & tries to hide it, well there's some wacky stuff in USA too. He could just write the standard: every country has some shame in their history but add some anecdote that suits the book he's writing. The way it's currently included, it feels like a sheet of paper was just slipped into the book. It's a weak point for sure that echoes towards the rest of the book.


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