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Everything Flows
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July 2018: Dystopian > Everything Flows | Vasily Grossman | 4 stars

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Idit | 1028 comments I'm putting it to you that Bolshevik Russia WAS a dystopia....

you know what they say... reality surpasses fiction


This is an unusual book. It sits on the cusp of fiction and non-fiction. While it has an ending, the author died before he finished it, so at the very least it’s unpolished.
We start the book on a train ride with few well-to-do russians in the 1950s. They all managed to thrive during Stalin’s years. We soon leave them together with the protagonist, who just came out of Siberia working camp where he was a prisoner for 30 years.
Through him we meet a scientist that managed to become a success - as everyone around him have been denounced / arrested / sidelined. He didn’t do anything, but had enjoyed the fruits of other people’s suffering.
We also meet someone who made his fortune denouncing people, including our protagonist and sending them to camps or death.
The story of Ivan Grigoryevich is a very loose structure for the novel. It is mainly a very deep look at the evils of Bolshevik Russia. From the people who watched others suffer, to Lenin and Stalin. (before it was trendy to criticize Lenin)
It looks at freedom, and hope, and staying (or not staying) human. What it means to be human…
At the horrifying famine in Ukraine, and the evils of the collectivisation
He has an interesting point that the communists kept the spirit of the tsarist russia - the spirit of enslavement

Vasily Grossman was a russian war journalist in WWII. and one of the first people to give witness about the holocaust. He later wrote a novel about the war and holocaust. That book was taken by the KGB and he was told it would never be shown. A copy given to a friend managed to reach the west luckily.
This book - Everything Flows - was written afterwords, in the late 50s and until his death in 1964. It is a condemnation of the communism, and of the bourgeoisie. The heroes are the true sufferers - the prisoners in the work camps and the peasants.

I found it hard but very very interesting. Both historically and as he looks at the human nature.
It made me wonder why we need to look for dystopian fiction… the real world is truly dystopian
Another point of interest to me: My mum’s family came from Russia to Israel (Palestine under British mandate). In the 30s one of my grandma’s brothers and his family was kicked out of israel by the British for being a communist. The next bit always confused me - When he reached USSR he was sent to Siberia and died there. I never understood - since he was a communist, why he was sent to Siberia. But reading this book, and chatting afterwords to my family - I’ve realized Stalin sent a lot of the old communists to work camps.


message 2: by Amy N. (new)

Amy N. | 256 comments I don't know much history, so I asked my history-buff husband if he agreed with someone reading Bolshevik Russia as dystopia. He cocked his head to the side, thought for a moment, and then, surprised, nodded and said, "Yup."

It's hard to catch him off guard like that, so good job thinking outside the box. It's so unnerving to think that there are periods of our own history that count as dystopian when it's so easy to think of it as mere science fiction or post-apocalyptic.


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