Two Witnesses From Russia
Russian Child and Russian Wife. By Tanya Matthews. (Gollancz, 15s.).
Never Go Back. By Mikhail
Koriakov. (Harrap, 10s. 6d.).
The Saint and the Devil. By Frances Winwar. (Flemish Hamilton, 15s.).
Reviewed by BARBARA WALL 'HERE are two books by Russians this week, both interesting in content, though Tanya Matthews' is the more fascinating to read as it is excellently written. She is a Russian woman in her thirties and her book is her autobiography. All her life, until a couple of years ago, was spent in Russia. and since she is nonpolitical and has no axe to grind, her hook is simply an account of childhood, adolesceqce and marriage against a post-revolutionary Russian background which she takes very much for granted. Her life in the country with her mother, her young unsuccessful efforts to get a job in Moscow, her hasty first mar
riage to a cameraman (in order to leave the district where she had. to
her horror, been asked to be an " agent " and spy on her neighbours) --a marriage accomplished merely by going to live with her man leave vivid pictures on the mind. And behind ri all was collectivisation, revolts, desperate shortage of food, purgings.
She describes the terror in Moscow when war broke out and the German advance started, the burn
ing of the Communist *4 gospels," the departure to safety of the " Royal Family " and " court." She was finally employed as secretary to an English war correspondent whom.
she married. When she left Moscow, Nick (her first husband) refused to
allow their daughter to accompany her: "1 tried lawyers but they refused to take up my case because 1
had married a foreigner. • . I had not seen my friends and relatives for eighteen months; they were
afraid to call on me, because 1 was
married to a foreigner. .. 1 could no longer live in my country be cause I had married a foreigner." 1'I1 Never Go Back has none of the lightness and wit and charm of
Tanya Matthews' book. It is a
turgid, frightful account of the war, as seen by a Russian war corres pondent. The cruelty of the Ger
mans in Russia was only excelled by the cruelty of the Russians in
Germany, according to Koriakov, who details for the reader the examples of rape and murder that it fell to his lot to witness. He quotes a broadcast speech of Maritain's in 1941: " Russia's entry into the
war appears to me a matter of
great historical importance. No matter what the outcome of the Russo-German conflict, Russia has resumed her place among Western nations. Second, that Russia is now battling for her national herit age, which so infinitely excels her political regime and will undoubtedly transform it." Koriakov insists that millions of Russians intended that
this should happen—that the firstwar events should be reversed in the
second. and a civil war ensue in which the Bolsheviks should go under.
What gives Communism its strength " he asks finally. "What has contributed to its growth?" The most important factor is the appar ent strength of the U.S.S.R. The peoples of the West see Russia from outside and wonder at her military might, the efficiency of her planned economy, and her internal unity. Bolshevism must have an iron curtain to maintain this illusion of Soviet Russia among the peoples of the West, so they cannot see what is happening within the country, so they cannot recognise disorder instead of efficiency. disintegration instead of unity. The first step towards rise defeat of world Communism is the destruction of the Iron Curtain, so that the people outside can see life in Soviet Russia without an alluring make-up. Who are the people who can destroy it ? Those who have escaped from Soviet Russia. . . Koriakov has an especial interest for readers of ME Ca-raoitc Mutsu) in that it was by becoming a convinced Christian that he first came up against authority.
The Saint and the Devil deals with earlier cruelty. It is a study of Joan of Arc and Gilles de Reis, Marshal of France, who at first served Joan nobly and then embarked on a career of crime, luxury and magic and died—at the stake— confessing publicly to the killing of 800 boys to satisfy his lust. The two contrasting portraits seem to me to be well done, though nothing new is revealed.
Everyday Miracle. By Gustav Eckstein. (Gollancz, As. 6d.). A book for ani mal -lovers—enact ng them to say " How human they are!'" It consists of brief studies of various animals the world over which have some " human " characteristics. E.g.. the cat which has an exact sense of time,