Fantastic Prose as an Escape from the Literature of Purpose
In the late fifties and early sixties Soviet prose was firmly entrenched in the canonical language of socialist realism. In the decade after the Twentieth Party Congress, Soviet science fiction experienced its second great age. It was a genre rich in tradition, encompassing an increasing range of subjects, with a highly engaged readership. The Thaw decade also witnessed the emergence of village prose as a variant on the flight from the Literature of Purpose. While the village literature of the thirties and forties, such as Mikhail Sholokhov's Virgin Soil Upturned, was basically a justification of collectivization, village prose of the fifties and sixties was sharply critical of Stalin's methods. "Youth" writers of the Thaw worked with language and themes distinctly different from village prose; one can observe departures from socialist realist norms. The severities signal a significant change of course from the literature of narrow dimension to broader realms of fantastic fiction.