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Shvoong Home>Books>Classic Literature>The Makepeace Experiment (Lyubimov) Review

The Makepeace Experiment (Lyubimov)

Book Review   by:LeeBCroft     Original Author: Abram Tertz (Andrei Donatovich Sinyavsky)
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Andrei Donatovich Sinyavsky (1925-1997) was a Russian writer, dissident, gulag survivor, emigrant, Professor at the Sorbonne University, and magazine (Sintaksis) founder and publisher. Together with writer Yulii Markovich Daniel he was arrested in 1965 and tried in Moscow for slandering the Soviet Union in his literary works that were sent abroad to be published under a pseudonym. The 1966 sentencing of Sinyavsky and Daniel to terms in labor camp exile (Sinyavsky to seven years) signaled the end of Khrushchev''s post-Stalin thaw in literary censorship. Of Sinyavsky''s works published in the west under the name of Abram Tertz, the most substantial, and exemplary of his anti-utopian satire, is his work, Lyubimov (1963), subsequently translated into English as The Makepeace Experiment. In this novelette, the main character Lenny Makepeace (Lyonya Tikhomirov) is a bicycle repairman in the Russian city of Lyubimov. Lenny''s father was a cobbler who perished in World War II. His mother dotes on him, trying continually to fatten his lean, narrow-chested frame with cottage cheese. In order to please Serafima Petrovna, the attractive local language teacher, Lenny becomes obsessed with coming to power in Lyubimov. He does this by using "mental magnetism," a skill he acquired by reading a book, The Magnet of the Soul, by Samson Samsonovich Proferansov, the philanthropist and quack-anthropologist incarnated ancestor of the Lyubimov librarian, Savely Kuzmich Proferansov, who keeps a journal recording the events. After taking power, Lenny enforces a hypnotic utopia on the citizens of Lyubimov, protecting the city from outside authorities by a sort of mental camouflage.
Lenny''s utopia embodies a naive idealism akin to Soviet socialism, well-meaning but at variance with the many frailties of human nature. Lenny promotes a local physician, Dr. Linde, who maintains that he has spotted a live prehistoric pterodactyl near the city, to become his Medical Officer, but then demotes him to hospital orderly when he finds out that Dr. Linde has had an affair with Serafima Petrovna. A government agent named Vitaly Kochetov (who also appears in another Sinyavksy novel, The Trial Begins) manages to infiltrate Lyubimov despite Lenny''s camouflage and becomes Lenny''s friend. But in the end Lenny''s mental control erodes and he even commands certain unappreciative citizens to die in the interest of a public welfare that he defines. When his religious mother asks him not to tear down the local monastery, he forces her to mouth the words, "There is no God." His friends and supporters desert him. Vitaly Kochetov is killed confronting a government tank. The outside authorities retake the city and the former leader, Semyon Gavrilovich Tishchenko, former Secretary of the Lyubimov Party Committee, who had been biding his time fishing on the riverbank during Lenny''s rule, retakes control. Lenny''s mother requests that a priest perform a service for the welfare of her displaced son.
Published: December 27, 2007   
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