Dudintsev, Vladimir Dmitrievich Born on 29 July 1918 (16 July, Old Style) in Kupyansk, Kharkov oblast, Ukraine. His father was a member of the gentry and served as a White officer. He was, naturally, executed by the Bolsheviks.
Despite his unfortunate class background, Dudintsev managed to gain admissioin to the Moscow Law Institute, from which he graduated in 1940. He fought as a soldier in World War II and became a company commander. After being wounded near Leningrad, he was demobilized and served out the rest of the war working in the military prosecutor's office in Siberia. His first work was published in 1933. In 1988, Dudintsev had this to say about his early work:
"They had a half-polished quality. They all were created without the moral weight of a writer's soul, like almost all of Stalin-era literature."It was only when he ran into geniune suffering that his work took wing. "The experience of life and practical work provided the necessary massage which led to the development of my soul", he said.
His 1956 novel "Not By Bread Alone" caused a sensation, unleashing both wild enthusiasm from readers and harsh criticism from officials, including Nikita Khrushchev himself. Published in Novy Mir, it tells the story of an inventor who struggles against the bureaucracy and self-servers in an attempt to aid the Soviet economy. Many Western media outlets trumpeted the negative aspects portrayed in the book. This dismayed Dudintsev, making him feel "as though my novel, a peaceable ship in foreign waters, had been seized by pirates and was flying the skull and crossbones." He did not deny portraying negative aspects of Soviet society, but he said:
We speak boldy and honestly about our deficiencies and our difficulties, because they are the birth pangs of a new world in which there is no injustice, a world the principals of which are being confirmed and marching to victory in my country."The idea for the novel formed in his mind during the war. To a meeting of the Union of Writers he recalled:
"How I was lying in a trench and above me flew 40 of our planes and two German planes, how the Germans, one after another, shot down our pilots, and how the question occured to me: how was such a slaughter possible given the great numerical superiority of Soviet planes? And I was always searching for an answer, collecting material for the novel."Nonetheless, he was broadly condemned at a rowdy meeting of the Union of Writers, at which Dudintsev himself fainted. Konstantin Simonov, editor of Novy Mir, admitted that he made a mistake in publishing the work. Paustovsky, however, defended the novel and Dudintsev.
For a long time afterward, Dudintsev was shunned by almost all. He survived by loans and anonymous gifts. Scientists who had opposed Lysenko and were themselves shunned, made friends with Dudintsev.
He authored one work of science fiction, "A New Year's Fairy Tale" (1957, published 1960), a fable for adults that takes place on a distant planet where half the people live in complete darkness, the other half in light; thugs run the dark continent, but things work out in the end.
Dudintsev managed to publish two additional collections of his works in 1959 and 1963.
"White Robes" (Beliye Odezhdi) was published in 1987, at the height of perestroika. Set in the late 1940s, it tells the story of some scientists who, despite Lysenko's denunciation of genetics as the "whore child of imperialism", secretly carry on research in the field. The hero of this novel, Dezhkin, is, according to Dudintsev, "an agent of good sent into the camp of evil with the assignment of defeating them." His fight is clandestine, unlike that of Lopatkin, the hero of "Not By Bread Alone", who fought openly. The author explained the difference this way:
Years had passed between the writing of these two novels. And I understood that for the Lopatkins to win, they must become Dezhkins. That is, in a definite social situation, those people pursuing a socially significant goal require not only courage, but also the ability to correctly and sensibly carry on the battle. If Dezhkin spoke out publically in defense of the scientific discovery, the repressive machine, having gathered momentum, would simply smash him. If I had portrayed such a hero as overcoming the system, his victory would appear false and programmed by the will of the writer's mind, not dictated by genuine reality."White Robes" also contains the idea of "parachutists", described by Dudintsev this way:
People thrown from the destroyed world into the conditions of Soviet reality. Entrepreneurs and egoists in their souls, they looked around and saw that here, too, it was possible to live if they accepted the new "rules of the game". And hiding their true nature they began to shout along with everyone else, "Long live the world revolution!" Masking their insincerity, they shouted louder and more expressively than others so that they quickly rose to the top, occupied leading posts and began to struggle for their own personal, comfortable lifestyle.According to Dudintsev, this is why gray-haired academics supported Lysenko and gave the leadership the needed "scientific" conclusions; and this is why, says Dudintsev, "ministers built not what was needed by the people, but that which did not contradict their personal interests." To Dudintsev it is obvious that the ecological disasters around the Aral Sea, the Volga, and Lake Ladoga are the work of the "parachutists".
In the words of the author, "The fight against evil is inevitably accompanied with great losses. With my book I wanted to call people to be more energetic."
In 1988, Dudintsev was awarded a State Prize. In 1992, "Robes" was turned into a film, with Dudintsev writing the screenplay.
He died on 23 July 1998.
References: ( Three Interviews with Dudintsev )
(Photo: Novaya Sibir)
"Not By Bread Alone" - a Detailed Summary.
"Mad Boy" (Beshenii Mal'chiska) by Dudintsev - Complete Text in Russian.