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Book Review: 'Cement'

A Bolshevik Novel

'Cement', by Feodor V. Gladkov (Martin-Lawrence. 7s. 6d. and 3s. 6d.)

This is the much-heralded novel of Bolshevik Russia, translated into English by A.S. Arthur and C. Ashleigh. It has run through many editions in France and Germany and is widely read in Russia itself.

The author takes as his background Russia in 1920-21, and his chief character is a Red Army soldier returned from the Front to find the local cement factory ruined and the workers idling their time away and the children almost starving.

His wife has no longer any time for him, being occupied in Party and Soviet work, besides having turned to other men in his absence. A good deal of the work is occupied with the efforts of the returned Red soldiers to get the Communist bureaucrats to get the factory restarted. This part of the book brings out the shortcomings of a Communist Dictatorship of Intellectuals who dominate with merciless discipline the mass of the workers and their wives, etc.

The more or less vague practice of "free love" running through the story seems unreal and far-fetched under the circumstances of the time, and the fetish of the Red women that they are free to choose new mates at random is poorly worked out by the author.

The sex life of the hero and his wife is continually brought to our attention, but the book finishes without any definite attitude between them.

For a glimpse of Russia at the opening of the era of the New Economic Policy, the book is interesting, but a real novel of life in Russia under Bolshevism is not yet written, or perhaps we should say translated, into English.

A. Kohn