A Russian historian complicates readers' understanding of the Nobel Prize-winning Russian author of And Quiet Flows the Don (1934), whom figures ranging from Alexander Solzhenitsyn to Salman Rushdie have maligned as a plagiarist and "patsy" of one of the 20th century's most brutal dictators.
Yes, Boech knows how Sholokhov won Stalin’s approval by writing fiction and giving speeches that satisfied the ruthless dictator’s expectations. But he also discerns generally overlooked complexities, and, in this politically focused biography, he illuminates those complexities ... A haunting portrait of a gifted but flawed and ultimately self-lacerating soul.
In a provocative and sympathetic new biography, Brian J. Boeck accepts the likelihood of literary genesis emerging from a long-since destroyed set of documents, but he argues that Sholokhov conjured this raw material—sketches, newspaper clippings, letters, notebooks, diary entries and an unfinished novel—into an original work ... Sholokhov in this telling forced his way into literary greatness ... The man from the provinces, who never made Moscow his home, sparked his genius on his own rough stone ... Boeck forces us to reconsider [Sholokov's popular] biography, at least in part, and that is no small achievement.
Mr. Boeck’s biography tries to explain how Sholokhov lost the conscience he once had ... Since Stalin’s Scribe is a 'political biography,' not a literary one, we get no detailed analyses of the literary works, which may puzzle readers who expect the biography of a writer to discuss his writing. In his afterword, Mr. Boeck observes insightfully that faking one’s accomplishments and constructing a false identity were hardly offenses unique to Sholokhov.