‘Life has been reborn’

Karl Schlögel

  • Revolution on My Mind: Writing a Diary under Stalin by Jochen Hellbeck
    Harvard, 436 pp, £19.95, May 2007, ISBN 978 0 674 02174 7

‘They are burning memory. They’ve been doing it for a long time . . . I go out of my mind when I think that every night thousands of people throw their diaries into the fire.’ The Soviet writer Yuri Tynianov said this to a colleague in Leningrad in the late 1930s. They were standing at a window looking at the air outside, which was filled with a fine ash. We associate diaries with individualism, intimacy, privacy, with unrestricted reflection and deliberation. But from a Communist perspective, to keep a diary was to withdraw from social responsibility, it was a form of apolitical, even asocial behaviour.

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