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Quiet Flows the Don
Mikhail Sholokhov
Quiet Flows the Don is a panoramic view of ten years of Cossack life in the Don region of Russia. Set in the turbulent years of the First World War, the Revolution and the Civil War, it deals unblinkingly with the main questions confronting the War's Communist regime: how much ruthlessness can be practised in order to establish Soviet power? The Bolsheviks' harsh repression of the Cossacks - disastrous both morally and politically - leads to a mass rebellion, which succeeds in driving the Reds out of the Don territory but not before the Don loses almost half its population in bloody and merciless battle. The long savagery of the Russian Civil War brutalizes many of those who are caught up in it on either side. Many of the Don Cossacks are farmers, content to pursue their hard-working lives and to stand aside from the fateful clash between Whites and Reds. But they are drawn ineluctably into the bitter conflict and, through the eyes of Sholokhov's vivid cast of characters, we see how families and friends are divided in the name of reordering society, and their way of life destroyed for ever. The fate of the Cossacks is personified in the tragedy of Sholokhov's hero, Grigory Melekhov. Promoted to officer for his courageous efforts in war against the Germans, his success leads only to his being treated with suspicion by the invading Communists. Under threat of arrest, he is forced to leave his family and become an outlaw. In the most degrading circumstances, Melekhov retains a nobility of spirit, but his desperate attempts to find a new life with his lover Aksinya are doomed to failure. Brian Murphy is Professor Emeritus of the University of Ulster where he taught Russian language and literature. He has compiled a Commentary to the Russian text of Quiet Flows the Don and published research on the Russian Civil War. He has also written on Turgenev, Chekhov, Zoshchenko and Babel, and aspectual usage of the verb in Russian and Serbo-Croat.
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