To refashion the fashioned, lest it harden into iron, is work of an endless vital activity.’
The year 1937 was the centenary of the death of modern Russia’s first great poet, Alexander Pushkin. Celebration was mandatory in the USSR, and it wasn’t a good year to ignore the dictates of Stalin’s bureaucrats. So the Soviet satirist Mikhail Zoschenko takes us into a grim but determined apartment block in Moscow, past a slap-dash artistic rendering of the great poet wreathed in pine branches, into a room where the tenants are gathered and a slightly flustered youngish man is preparing to speak. There is a general doziness and smell of old onions.