Ludmila Ulitskaya wrote a great novel a few years back about what it was like being in the Soviet Union and living under the various cultural restrictions, and then how literary heroes like Nabokov, Mikhail Bulgakov, and Boris Pasternak wrote about and contributed to the resistance through cultural output. Even in the cases where their work was kind of co-opted as resistance even if they themselves were not exactly radicals there’s still something affirming about it.
Vladimir Voinovich has a different story to tell. What about all those other writers, the ones who capitulated to the state, or worse, contributed willingly to upholding of the Soviet Union through embarrassingly servile and craven flattery and propaganda campaigns? Here we get that. And it’s truly awful, and really funny.
Who knows what’s going to happen in the US in the next few years or decades, but the swill industry of servile, glad-handing, cowards without an ounce of culture to their name or being are already definitely pouring out the kinds of fake laudatory garbage and vapid and insipid garbage designed to uphold traditional values (read: racism, sexism, and other anti-humanistic political positions).
The novel deals with one such figure, Yefim Rakhlin, as he pounds out empty novel after empty novel called things like Operation! and which tell the stories of brave individuals who work to uphold the state, show the glory of the party, and champion the good of country. Voinovich knows a thing or two about the crappy pro-Soviet output since he lived it for years and fought against it in subtle ways at first and then after exile, in not subtle ways like with this novel.