Two Versions of For a Just Cause

I know I have been going on about For a Just Cause a bit, but that is because: 1) I find it really quite an exciting piece of study; 2) very little has been written about the book, especially in English, therefore pretty much everything I write is kind of new, and so I WIN!
So here I want to point out another aspect of the novel that I find really interesting and it has to do with the publication of the novel. There are two main versions of the novel available, one published in 1952 and the other in 1964. This is due to the heavy censorship imposed on the novel, and there are supposedly about 13 versions of the novel in the archives. Grossman spent five years rewriting the novel for publication and it was finally released in 1952. After Stalin’s death and the relative freedom of the press, Grossman rewrote the novel to make it more like his original version and it was published in 1964. (Interestingly, very first version of the novel was called Life and Fate.) There are some significant differences between the two novels, but I have two favourites in particular. One is the depiction of Abarchuk and the other is the story of Dmitrii, Alexandra Vladimirovna’s son and Serezha’s father. 
In Life and Fate Abarchuk is one of the men imprisoned in the Russian labour camp. He is lonely and finds himself longing for his son. Unlike Mostovskoy, Abarchuk is more obviously a broken man, his strength lay in the power to judge others, and in camp he has lost that right and is not the man he used to be. In For a Just Cause 1952 (as I will call it here), Abarchuk isn’t even mentioned by name, he is only referred to as Liudmila’s husband who leaves her soon after their son is born. In For a Just Cause 1964, however, Grossman spends three pages describing Abarchuk. Here we see the character that is depicted in Life and Fate. Abarchuk is truly unlikeable. He and Liudmila marry when they’re in the first year of university and divorce when they are in the third. Abarchuk is a hard worker at the university and is truly devoted to the Party and the Revolutionary cause; he sleeps no more than four-five hours a night. He is judgemental and unforgiving, calling for an expulsion of a female student for using strong perfume during May 1st celebrations. He imagines that his living space with his wife should consist of two desks (one for the husband and one for the wife), a bookshelf, two beds that fold up, and a hidden wardrobe. When Liudmila becomes pregnant she starts buying various items for the future child, which frustrates Abarchuk as he believes she is too bourgeois. They also argue about the boys name, Abarchuk wants to call him October. When Liudmila decides to visit her brother Dmitrii in his summer house, Abarchuk takes the opportunity to clear out the room of all her things and writes her a six page letter explaining in depth why he is leaving her. Meeting her at university months later he stops and asks: “How do you do Comrade Shaposhnikova?” To this Liudmila silently turns and walks away. He also attempts to have Shtrum excluded from the university, as all three characters study in the same institution. 
Dmitrii is another example of a character that gets two very different stories in the two versions of For a Just Cause. In both novels Dmitrii studies at the Sverdlovsk university, and he also takes part in the Civil War, against the Naval Commander Aleksandr Kolchak.He then quickly gets an important position within an unspecified industry. In the 1952 version Dmitrii becomes severely ill with a heart condition but refuses to take time off work, which leads to his death from a heart attack. He is found dead in his office. In the 1964 edition however, Dmitrii is arrested in 1937 on the charge that he is connected to enemies of the people. Even his wife is arrested, whilst in 1952 version she moves from Moscow to the north and then Serezha moves to the Shaposhnikov’s because of his ill health. In the 1964 version Alexandra Vladimirovna manages to get a pass to see her son and the only time the characters see Alexandra Vladimirovna in tears, is when she describes this meeting. Dmitrii is brought to the meeting in a boat (I assume the prison is on the other side of the river?) and the two stand in silence holding hands, looking deeply at each other. After the autumn of 1939 Dmitrii stops answering Alexandra Vladimirovna’s letters, she sends requests to find out about his fate, even travels to Moscow, but to no avail. This is the last mention of Dmitrii, his fate remains unknown and it is only in Life and Fate that Alexandra Vladimirovna hears that he is in a camp and suffering. 
The differences between the two novels are numerous, however, the above two are my favourite. This is because they clearly show how Grossman was rewriting the novels to fit in with the censorship demands. It also very clearly shows the difference in Soviet publishing between the two decades. In 1952 it was impossible to say that Dmitrii was arrested in 1937 and so boldly point out the terror of that year that has become known as The Great Terror. It was also impossible to depict a devoted Communist in such completely unsympathetic light, Abarchuk is so devoted to the cause that he becomes cruel to his wife and child. Grossman almost pokes fun at the notion of this hard-line believer when he suggests that their son should be called October. Although it was common for children to have names related to the Revolution, in this case it is almost comic as Abarchuk becomes a parody of himself.
Without the 1964 version of the novel, Life and Fate  would not make sense, especially the story of Abarchuk. However, Dmitrii’s story is not essential to the two novels, so it is very interesting that Grossman felt that this had to be changed from the 1952 version. It suggests that he wanted to show the effects of 1937, and in that way extend the narrative beyond the war and show the extent of Stalinist terror. The above two are perhaps the most obvious differences that demonstrate the changes that took place in both publishing and in Soviet society during these two decades. Rewriting For a Just Cause Grossman was clearly preparing it to fit in with the sequel that was never published. I would love to read a study of all the versions of the novel (or indeed the versions themselves) to see the changes made during different times, and to see how many of the changes were a preparation for Life and Fate and how many were restorations of past versions. It is always fascinating to see the progress of a novel from inception to publication, but in this case it would also illuminate the inner workings of Soviet censorship. This is one of the many reasons I find this novel so interesting.

One thought on “Two Versions of For a Just Cause

  1. Pingback: Solzhenitsyn’s Posthumous Output « Trewisms

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