The Great Sorrow

I reread Vladimir Dudintsev’s novel White Garments that I read once a year, so I’m now, by my calculations, at reading #22. I pretty much know it by heart.

The novel depicts the destruction of genetics in the USSR in the late 1940s. Geneticists were killed, jailed and cancelled because they defended scientific truth and refused to affirm bizzare ideas that the regime proclaimed to be true. One of those ideas was that a tree can spontaneously and for no reason sprout branches of a completely different tree. I’m not talking about grafting or genetic modification. This was supposed to be a process occurring in nature because of dialectical materialism.

Another article of Soviet dogma was that when a bird lays eggs, one of them can spontaneously mutate and become a different type of bird. Say, a pigeon lays eggs and five of them are little pigeons but one is an eagle. This is patently insane but so is the idea that 4-year-old boys can decide they are girls and we should start sawing off their body parts in response.

Soviet people were trained to go weak in the knees when seeing a person of a protected identity category. That category was a proletarian. In Dudintsev’s novel, there’s a character who is a precursor of AOC and every other fake “person of color.” He pretends to have a working class accent and manners because this helps him to get the crowds to hound geneticists for disagreeing that apples can spontaneously sprout on an oak. If a proletarian says it, it’s got to be true. Center marginalized voices! Value indigenous ways of knowledge! All very recognizable.

I wish the English translation were less impossible to find because the novel reads scarily relevant. There are scenes that could have been lifted directly from many professional meetings in business and academia today.

The most fascinating thing about the novel is realizing how closely the Left in the US is following the Soviet script. There are scenes where the most disgusting, evil Soviet apparatchik spouts his slogans, and you’d never see the difference between what he says and Ilhan Omar’s Twitter account.

I can’t get over how impossibly boring all these Robin DiAngelos and Co are. They haven’t invented anything. It’s as if they took old Soviet manuals and applied the context search in Word, substituting every “bourgeois” with “white” and “proletarian” with “POC, BIPOC” and other types of their favorite letter soup.

The title of the novel comes from Revelation 7:13-14.

And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they? And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”

In Russian, the word used instead of tribulation is sorrow. The people in white, who in the novel symbolize those who want to do good and stand up for truth, come from great sorrow.

P.S. Dudintsev’s other novel, Not by Bread Alone has been translated into English but I don’t recommend it. It’s extraordinarily, painfully boring. It was published in the 1950s in the USSR. What else can it possibly be but extraordinary crap? (There are a few rate exceptions but that’s a different discussion).

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