This was a curious novel, by one of the Soviet Union’s most famous children’s writers. It is simple, as it is written from the POV of a young boy struggling through pretty normal problems in life unfortunately. Problems in the family; friendship issues; troubles at school – how to grapple with that process of growing up which we all must go through.
I think the most interesting thing for me was the portrayal of these challenges, living as the boy did inside the Soviet system. And how that system made all the normal problems that much more difficult to resolve. The conflict in the family is between the grandmother and her daughter’s husband, the latter which is forced to live in granny’s house because of the severe rationing of housing in the USSR. He works a job, forced to surrender all his wages to her – until he rebels and leaves. Granny, who forces the little boy to write first to the Soviet ‘worker management’ of the company where his dad works and then the town Soviet to try and force him back – landing them all in court. The impossibility of him to find other lodgings.
And money. Socialists would tell you that the dream of that economic and political model is to make money less important. In reality, money (and its lack) become center stage, taking an all-consuming role in the lives of the everyday citizens. Its all people can think of, because it is so scarce and so difficult to come by but still so important in the struggle to secure the normal privileges that we in free societies have come to take for granted.
Likhanov is still alive – he’s still an important figure in post-soviet intellectual circles. I wonder what he would say about all that has happened over the last 30 years. I bet that would be a conversation worth having!