USC Book Prize in Literary and Cultural Studies

2021 Recipient

Carol Any

The Soviet Writers’ Union and Its Leaders: Identity and Authority under Stalin

The University of Southern California Book Prize in Literary and Cultural Studies, established in 2009 and sponsored by the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures at the University of Southern California, is awarded annually for an outstanding monograph published on Russia, Eastern Europe, or Eurasia in the fields of literary and cultural studies in the previous calendar year.

Winner: Carol Any
Title: The Soviet Writers’ Union and Its Leaders: Identity and Authority under Stalin (Northwestern University Press)

Carol Any’s monograph brings together her career-long investigations into the politics and personalities of some of the most despicable characters to walk the literary surface of the earth: the leadership of the Soviet Writers’ Union under Stalin, a period, Any aptly notes, bracketed by two suicides––Vladimir Mayakovsky’s in 1930 and Aleksander Fadeev’s in 1956. Having scoured their private correspondence as well as memoranda and official documents, Any puts human faces on a faceless and inhuman bureaucracy, illuminating the personalities and the personal motives that drove literary politics in the USSR for over a quarter century, and beyond. Literary history is presented in six chapters, complemented with two intermezzi––close readings of the principals’ letters to each other, that draw readers further into the private intrigues of Stalin’s “malleable men.” The Soviet Writers’ Union and Its Leaders is scrupulously researched and documented. It engages in conversation with the major historical and critical studies of the period. Most impressive, though, is Carol Any’s success at structuring her study as a story, complete with drama and intrigue, her prose sprinkled with colloquialisms that lend this scholarly tome refreshing readability.