A little back story. During the second world war Romania decided to fight on the German side. In 1944 a coup in Romania ended up in Romania surrendering to the Soviet Union. This meant that the red army could travel through Romania and, when the war was won by the Allies, Romania was under Soviet control. Romania became a communistic state and a new area of literature called “Socialist realism in Romania” was created. This style was an import of the Socialist realism from the Soviet, and the purpose was to transform Romanians into communists by showing how bad things had been before and how good they where now, under communist rule.
Mitrea Cocor by Mihail Sadoveanu is an example of this. It follows Mitrea Cocor, whom is practically sold into slavery by his brother. When he is old enough he is forced, though after the slavery he goes willingly, into the army. The story is set during the second world war, so Mitrea is sent to the front line to fight with the Germans against the The red army. He is caught and develops Stockholm-syndrome, though the book plays it out as a good thing. After he becomes a full fledge communist he goes back to his home town to free them from the corrupt landowner whom Mitrea had been a slave for and Mitrea’s corrupted brother, to bring a new age of equality and good times under communist rule.
It has one of the best endings I have ever read (spoilers) with Mitrea coming home and having a mob with him, and the landowner and Mitrea’s brother asking if Mitrea wants revenge. Mitrea calmly says he doesn’t because that’s not how communism works. Communists aren’t violent, but the landowner and the brother now have to work just like everyone else. Then the brother and landowner have to plough the landowners land. As if that would happen. But oh glorious propaganda.
But he whom has found happiness, he will come again and get it, – IX
While all books that have some message to deliver in some degree are propaganda, this was some wonderful propaganda cheese. Especially the ending was so hilarious I couldn’t stop laughing. No way, no way would a mob do the things they did in the book. They would have torn the landowner and brother piece by piece. The ending, like the rest of the book, was meant to highlight how much better you where if you were a communist. You wouldn’t stoop to lowly petty revenge, you are super human and better than that. This again was to highlight other aspects of the ideological changes in the country. It tries to comfort the people whom had been in power previously that the new regime wouldn’t hurt you if you only became good (i.e. a communist). It also talks about how, while the story itself is a personal story the story of Mitrea Cocor, the ideological changes wasn’t about the individual, but the collective. Since communism as an ideology is about looking at the collective, this makes literary sense. The new country, the new ideal isn’t about I (and my personal revenge), but WE.
The book also managed to paint a dark picture about the country pre-communism. I remember getting quite angry at the people and wondering why Mitrea couldn’t get a break. In that sense Mihail Sadovenau does a god job in creating a world that needs the changes communism could bring. Life for a lot of people where unfair and for them communism could be a good answer.
In his being, deep down, was a revolt that nothing could stop. And everywhere around him where humans similar to him, countless slaves just awakening the signal. “Down with this unfair system” screamed every fibre of his being. VII
I’m not interested in discussing whether or not communism is the right ideology. The fact is that governments will always want confirmation by the people that what they are doing is right. One way of doing this is through the media. Not censorship per say (though this is also a part of it), but through the messages the general media and art (like literature) convey. Democratic governments want media that promotes democracy, dictatorships wants media that promotes the dictator and communistic states wants books and films that pains communism as the right way to go. It was fascinating to see the communistic ideology presented in the light it was, because it’s different than through the lenses I usually see and read communism. Even small things like how religion is bad, which is a part of the communism ideology that is rarely talked about, was a presented in two small scenes in the book.
I would recommend this book for people who either love the story of revolution and want a new take on it, is interested in the communistic ideology or just want to see how media can be presented in a different way than what you are used to. By the way, if you grew up in a communistic culture (either the country or community), please let me now how you read the book. It would be interesting to know how an insider read this differently than me (an outsider). Do leave your comments down below about how you read this book or books like this. Do you think we should read books like this? Why/Why not?