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THIS is a collection of 15 short stories by the New York Times' correspondent in Moscow, already popularly known as an author from his book "I Write As I Please," published during the recent epidemic of journalistic baring-of-the-breast. It is worth while for two reasons: first, it is one of a series of low-priced books published in paper covers, and attempting to present good books cheaply; second, Duranty as an acute observer of the Great Experiment in Russia since 1920 is able to comment interestingly on the intimate effects of this experiment on the people over a considerable period of time.
The dominant note of the book is contained in the curious and eye-catching title. It is the story of the awakening of the peasant from his long sleep of ignorance and superstition and the clumsiness with which they have tried to grasp hold of their new and streamlined life. Mr. Duranty often has an amused smile on his lips when he tells of the strange effects which the attempts to adapt themselves to their boss comrades' ideas of civilization have on these simple people, but he is gentle with them throughout and never sharply satirical.
Truth Rather Than Flction
The fact that they are obviously reminiscenses and true stories with only a light coat of fiction and that some of them were written for Collier's and Red Book Magazine, makes it possible to judge them not as creative literary efforts.
If considered as straight reporting with the added freedom of impression that the form of the short story gives they can be praised highly. The man knows Russia thoroughly.
The tempo is set in the first story, "The Brave Soldier and the Wicked Sorcerer" when the note of modern precision's victory over the ignorance and superstition of the past is struck. The young Red soldier returns gloriously to his village to marry his girl in spite of the extorting opposition of the sorcerer and hostility of the priest. He beats the sorcerer for his prediction of a baby with a hairy body and a long black tall, and justice is vigorously upheld when the latter's suit for damages is dismissed by the Soviet court because of his attempt to profit from an outworn superstition.
Government in the Home
That "the letter of Law is not always the Spirit of Justice" is the conclusion of "The Village Maiden and the Three Red Boys" where the offended father's attempt to profit in a common-sense way from his daughter's misfortune is rudely rejected by Soviet justice. "Leningrad's Lucky House" shows an all-wise government taking control of a poor tenement's winning in a state lottery and administering it to everyone's disappointment and everyone's ultimate benefit. Mr. Duranty has loss success when he tackles the subject of the comparative success of Christianity and Communism as a working philosophy in "The Spirit Within." He merely states the proposition that they are opposed to one another seems to pull a weak and mystical oar in favor of the former. On the whole he is better on the humorous side and when he sticks fairly close to experience and does not labor his imagination with too great burdens
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