IN SOVIET ARCADIA
In general, in the novel, youth is riding for a fall; something in the very form of the novel itself warns us obscurely that things will not turn out—indeed, it is in the very nature of things that they can never turn out. So it is refreshing to come upon Red Plenty, in which youth and its hopes and excitements—forever enthusiastic even in its minor disappointments—are preserved as in a time capsule; as if under a spell, or enclosed within a fairy-tale, as the author, Francis Spufford, tells us. And this, in a historical novel—one of those new so-called postmodern historical novels that are springing up all around us—in which we all know very pertinently that it never did turn out in the first place. This youth, in which the world was new, and very bliss it was, is the youth of the Soviet Union; but not the 1920s, the world of revolutionary hopes, but rather the youth of Khrushchev’s 60s, a whole new generation of Soviets who have put Stalin and the War, deprivation and the secret police, behind them. A generation, indeed, who have never known any of those things, whose emblem is Sputnik and education, and whose hope is ‘red plenty’, in a distinctly different sense from the consumerism of the American post-war. Spufford has done well, first to stock and bury his time capsule, and then to dig it up and open it for us. He has his own lessons to draw from its contents, but there may also be others he has not thought of.
’My institution subscribes to NLR, why can't I access this article?’
Also available in:
By the same author:
On Re-reading Life and Fate
Against conventional comparisons with War and Peace, Fredric Jameson offers a path-breaking formal reading of Vassily Grossman’s great fiction of the Battle of Stalingrad. The war against Hitler as crucible for a new collectivity, in which freedom finds itself, or as grounds of social—and thus narrative—totality.
The Aesthetics of Singularity
Can postmodernity still define the present age, or is the concept now obsolescent? In a major retrospect and re-evaluation, Fredric Jameson reflects on the cultural logic of globalization and its temporalities. Art, cuisine and financial derivatives as one-off ideas and events; global politics and counter-possibilities as land-grabs, or occupied space.
Reflections on the occasion of the Rome Lecture and on its themes. Dialectic of the inside and the outside, the surprising role of non-knowledge in subjectivity—and new technologies and labour processes as experiential grounds for transformation in class consciousness.
Fredric Jameson on Uwe Tellkamp, Der Turm. Reunified Germany’s best-seller from the former DDR, and the way time was lived in it.
Regieoper, or Eurotrash?
Opera has been globalized, and big-bang productions of Wagner’s music-dramas now outnumber those of all other works. How to frame an aesthetics for this cultural-historical phenomenon—allegorical ideogram strings, or Gesamtkunstwerk as vaudeville?
Marx and Montage
The author of Archaeologies of the Future unearths fragments from ‘ideological antiquity’ in Alexander Kluge’s recent film on Capital. Encounters with Eisenstein’s unrealized equivalent, seeking a cinematic transposition of the commodity fetish.
Fredric Jameson on Christoph Henning, Philosophie nach Marx. Austerities of a German rejection of social philosophy, in the name of the Moor.
The Politics of Utopia
Between the dizzying technologies of the First World, and social disintegrations of the Third, does the concept of utopia still possess a meaning? Fredric Jameson on the resistant negations of fantasy-based systemic critique.
Fear and Loathing in Globalization
Reflections on William Gibson’s Pattern Recognition: a contemporary dialectic of style, as the Verne of cyberspace turns to the branded present and its nauseas.
After the dilapidation of urban modernism, what kinds of city and what forms of architecture await us? The author of The Seeds of Time considers their flowers in the dizzying work of Rem Koolhaas, the mega-developments of the Pearl River Delta and the conceptualization of ‘Junkspace’. Breaking back into history with a battering-ram of the postmodern?