Thursday, September 8, 2016

change the world's spirit

"The times spat at me.  I spit back at the times."
   ~~ Andrei Voznesensky, 20th Century Russian poet

----------------------- [excerpt, Schlesinger Journals] --------------------


April 9.

Life in New York:  Thursday, the 7th, we went at 6 P.M. to Jean Stein's party for Andrei Voznesensky.

Yesterday afternoon Andrei called to say that he was going to be on the MacNeil-Lehrer show that night.  I suggested that he come over to watch it and stay for dinner, which he did; Kathy Sloane also came to dinner. 

Andrei put on a good face during the TV interview and handled the question of his relationship to the regime pretty well. 

In private, he is quite pessimistic about prospects in the Soviet Union -- more so than when we last met in New York.  He is a great admirer of Gorbachev but fears he may be going too fast for the Soviet people.

"I would die for democracy," he said.  "But I know my people.  They do not want democracy.  They have never known democracy.  The czars?  Lenin?  Stalin?  Khrushchev?  Brezhnev?  They fear democracy.  They want to be told what to do.  Gorbachev is asking too much of them."

"The fight is going on," he kept saying.  He spoke about the "terrible" state of Soviet society, especially the corruption.  "No one works," he said.  "How will we ever get production if no one works?" 

The economic reforms will cause a short-run decline in living standards, and this will hurt Gorbachev.  So will the Armenian riots and other nationalist manifestations. 

Ending the Afghan war will help, and he does have allies among the modernizers and realists in the various bureaucracies, including the KGB.  "But it will be a long hard fight."

I asked him what the reaction to the serialization of Dr. Zhivago had been. 

He said, "It is a great anti-climax.  No one can understand why it was ever suppressed."

We like Andrei.  With his baby face, loud Italian suits, fluent, voluble English, sharp, ironic reactions, warm Russian affections, he is most engaging. 

I decline to judge his political stance, which has been halfway between the regime and the dissidents; pronouncing judgment on such matters from the safety of Manhattan is a precarious business.  ----------------------- [end, excerpt] -------------


If you want to change the world's spirit, I will suggest that only poetry can do this.
   ~~ Andrei Voznesensky


Voznesensky, left, and Sen. Robert F. Kennedy in New York in 1967


{excerpt from Journals.  1952 - 2000.  Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr.  The Penguin Press.  New York.  2007.}


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