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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tissue, altogether too many of which the cell does not know how to exclude. Formaldehyde, acetaldehyde, catechol, isoprene, ethylene oxide, nitric oxide, nitrosamine, the aromatic amines – not to mention the quinones, the semiquinones, the hydroquinones, a whole family of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. We are watching for one of these last. Here it comes now, a drifting, tumbling molecule of benzopyrene. It sails into the cell’s bulging curtain wall of fats and sticks there, like an insect

his watch in the gloom. It’s hours, now, that he’s been waiting here in the labyrinth. Bone ache is being joined by a fever that rises up through his emaciated body like hot mist. There’s a film of damp on his forehead and things inside his mind are losing their clarity and starting to melt into each other. Another lung cell. Chance upon chance upon chance upon chance. Of all the billions of cells in Lebedev’s lungs, there will be some millions where the diol epoxide gum from his cigarettes

middle of the Second World War – and then continued to work on aircraft design as a prisoner in the ‘first circle’ of the Gulag. 22 Everyone was wearing fine new outfits: for the visible Soviet prosperity of the 1950s, see Abel Aganbegyan, Moving the Mountain: Inside the Perestroika Revolution, trans. Helen Szamuely (London: Bantam, 1989) and G. I. Khanin, ‘1950s: The Triumph of the Soviet Economy’, Europe–Asia Studies vol. 55 no. 8 (December 2003), pp. 1187–1212; for the way in which the 1950s

which Brezhnev’s government used as their free-money alternative to sorting out the economy. See Ellman, Planning Problems in the USSR. 349 Tick the boxes, write the numbers on the cyclostyled returns: a conjectural rendition, with invented details, of the real research project pursued at Akademgorodok by Raissa Berg until she was fired for signing the 1968 protest letter. The process of deduction here, from rates of birth defect to concealed social history, is entirely authentic. See Berg,

your great minds, again?’ she asked. ‘All right,’ said Kostya. ‘Just there by the buffet is our Leonid Vitalevich. Resident genius.’ ‘Candidate member of the Academy. King of mathematical economics. Prince of cybernetics. Rabbi of functional analysis. Master of algorithms. The White Crow himself,’ said Valentin. The genius was a short man, becoming tubby, with a nose that didn’t seem large enough to explain the nickname, though she could see that it was probably growing beakier in effect as

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