Red Plenty

Red Plenty

Francis Spufford

Language: English

Pages: 448

ISBN: 1555976042

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


"Spufford cunningly maps out a literary genre of his own . . . Freewheeling and fabulous." ―The Times (London)

Strange as it may seem, the gray, oppressive USSR was founded on a fairy tale. It was built on the twentieth-century magic called "the planned economy," which was going to gush forth an abundance of good things that the lands of capitalism could never match. And just for a little while, in the heady years of the late 1950s, the magic seemed to be working. Red Plenty is about that moment in history, and how it came, and how it went away; about the brief era when, under the rash leadership of Khrushchev, the Soviet Union looked forward to a future of rich communists and envious capitalists, when Moscow would out-glitter Manhattan and every Lada would be better engineered than a Porsche. It's about the scientists who did their genuinely brilliant best to make the dream come true, to give the tyranny its happy ending.

Red Plenty is history, it's fiction, it's as ambitious as Sputnik, as uncompromising as an Aeroflot flight attendant, and as different from what you were expecting as a glass of Soviet champagne.

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in the hot green torpor of August. When he could he cadged phone calls to his fiancée back in the city. ‘I’m going to go and visit my parents after the exams,’ she said. ‘Why don’t you come and collect me from the village this weekend? It’s time you met them. They’re getting curious about their future son-in-law. I’ll boast about you some more before you come …’ On Saturday morning he packed a satchel, and put on his best suit, a black broadcloth item with a rather English stripe, which he

factory, he supposed, there would be a raw brick barn, cold enough inside at this time of year to turn the workers’ breaths to puffs of steam. He guessed that the machinery would be the usual wild mixture. Aged pre-revolutionary presses and stampers would be running alongside homegrown products of the Soviet machine-tool industry, with here and there a silky import, efficient but hard to maintain. Together, under the exposed girders of the roof, this mismatched orchestra of devices would be

wood round here?’ she asked. ‘What kind do you want?’ said Valentin, too late and too fast; for after all, it would be in the nature of a genuinely enchanted forest that it would give you what you didn’t know you wanted, rather than granting dreary wishes as familiar to you as the lacks they were supposed to fill. ‘You know, I don’t think I understand this place at all,’ she told Kostya. Kostya looked at her. ‘Why don’t you go on ahead,’ he said to Valentin. ‘We’ll catch you up.’ ‘Yes,’ she

into apparently unforeseeable trouble. Moreover, he kept up (so far as Gosplan’s library let him) with Western commentary on the plan, which he could translate into Soviet terms. He could tell you, with beautiful ideological tact, what foreigners meant when they said the Soviet system suffered from ‘suppressed inflation’ or a ‘permanent sellers’ market’. Conversely, he could see where the unfolding developments of the plan might create business opportunities for the Soviet Union in the West.

and it consumed its own wastes too. It was warm and poisonous, and it grew, and grew, and grew. But in the morning he felt much better. The dream washed off him in a hot shower, the widow smiled at him forgivingly. Over coffee an inkling came to him of a solution to the Solkemfib problem, a first mental draft of a complex scheme of favours, arranged in a braided circle. By 8.30, he was waiting at the main entrance of Uralmash, his spare briefcase loaded with one or two carefully chosen items.

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