During the 1920s, Soviet cultural authorities sought to develop a new, post-imperialist literature that would acknowledge a "new East" and supersede the enchanted exoticism of writers like Pierre Loti. They also sought to establish in the countries of the Far East institutional and individual cultural links that might attract leading writers there to the cause of communist internationalism. With these goals in mind, they sent to East Asia two prominent writers, first Sergei Tretiakov, who spent eighteen months in 1924 and 1925 as a professor of Russian literature at Peking University and correspondent for Pravda, and then Boris Pilniak, who traveled to China, Japan, and Mongolia in 1926 (and returned to Japan for a visit in 1932). This article discusses these writers' visits and some of the literary works they generated in response to their encounters with East Asia in order to address the general question of whether communist internationalist culture was generated vertically (by instructions, efforts, and institutions set up by "Moscow" and the Comintern) or forged horizontally (by personal links and as a result of individual agency). As a case study in how the two writers attempted to present a more authentic account of the East, the article discusses the contrasting ways they represented the Chinese revolutionary.


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pp. 423-448
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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Archived 2020
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