Northern Cheyenne Exodus and Negroes Lynching: Historical Novels of Howard Fast in the USSR

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The article deals with the historical novels’ reception of Howard Fast (a writer who was extremely popular in the 1950s, though he is almost forgotten now) in the Soviet Union. Once a USA Communist Party member loyal to the USSR, he became a fierce opponent of Soviet communism. The analysis of the American context uncovers the reasons why the author of left-wing beliefs turned to the genre of a historical novel and peculiarities of the literary market he faced. A close study of Soviet reviews demonstrates that the novels The Last Frontier and The Freedom Road were perceived by Soviet literary critics as Fast’s protest against racial discrimination and growing right-wing sentiment. These problems were a matter of urgency against the background of the McCarthy campaign, which Fast fell victim to in 1947. His novel The Freedom Road was put on the stage in Moscow theaters. According to Soviet reviewers, the absence of “decadent” primitivism set Fast apart from other once-friendly Soviet writers such as Richard Wright and Claude McKay. Within this tradition of exoticism criticism, dating back to the 1920s and 1930s, novels about distant lands were highly appreciated only when ethnographic descriptions were used for consistent social criticism. Being a committed supporter of the concept “art as a weapon” developed in the Soviet Union, Fast perceived exaggerated exoticism, top-heavy descriptions of historical novels as a sign of escapist literature that ignores the method of dialectical materialism.

About the authors

Olga I. Scherbinina

Lomonosov Moscow State University

Author for correspondence.

Ph.D student, Department of History of Foreign Literature, Faculty of Philology

1 Leninskie Gory, Moscow, 119991, Russian Federation


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Copyright (c) 2021 Scherbinina O.I.

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