‘Air, bread, light, and warmth’

The dizzying crest of radical belief in America
by
December 2020, no. 427
Buy this book
Naish Gawen reviews 'The Romance of American Communism' by Vivian Gornick

The Romance of American Communism

by Vivian Gornick

Verso, $29.99 pb, 263 pp

Buy this book

‘Air, bread, light, and warmth’

The dizzying crest of radical belief in America
by
December 2020, no. 427

In the novel Demons, Dostoevsky’s narrator describes the character Shatov as ‘one of those ideal Russian beings who can suddenly be so struck by some strong idea that it seems to crush them then and there, sometimes even forever’. This ideal person is one whose ‘whole life afterwards is spent in some last writhings, as it were, under the stone that has fallen on them’. The people who populate Vivian Gornick’s The Romance of American Communism are Americans rather than Russians, but they too are living in the last writhings of the strong idea that dominates their lives: the idea of Stalinist communism.

Gornick’s book, first published in 1977, has been rereleased this year by Verso, with a new introduction by the author. To write the book, Gornick, then a journalist, travelled around America for a year interviewing former members of the Communist Party USA. The product of this labour is a narrative oral history, a series of character portraits that balance the reported speech of the interviewees with Gornick’s own authorial interventions, by turns admiring and judgemental of her subjects but always keenly perceptive.

Naish Gawen reviews 'The Romance of American Communism' by Vivian Gornick

The Romance of American Communism

by Vivian Gornick

Verso, $29.99 pb, 263 pp

From the New Issue

You May Also Like

Leave a comment

If you are an ABR subscriber, you will need to sign in to post a comment.

If you have forgotten your sign in details, or if you receive an error message when trying to submit your comment, please email your comment (and the name of the article to which it relates) to ABR Comments. We will review your comment and, subject to approval, we will post it under your name.

Please note that all comments must be approved by ABR and comply with our Terms & Conditions.