By John Ebon.
Reported by Antonina W. Bouis, Jean-Claude Bouis
and James 0. Jackson/Moscow
It is one of the most spectaular publishing successes in Soviet history. The novel first appeared last year as a serial in the magazine Druzhba Narodov Friendship of Peoples); issues sold out so rapidly that copies were being hawked on the black market for $200. the equivalent of an average worker's monthly salary. The first 500,000 copies of a hard-cover edition, published in February, were snapped up in two days and were often gone so fast that lines had no time to form. By the end of the year, an additional 2.4 million copies will be in print. A paperback (print order: 3.5 million) is in the works, a play based on the book is about to open, and there is talk of a movie. Meanwhile, there are or will be translations of the novel in at least 20 languages, including English, French, German and Japanese.
This remarkable literary event is Children of Arbat by Anatoli Rybakov, 77. In the view of Princeton Professor Emeritus Robert С. Tucker, the leading American scholar of the Stalin era, the hook is "one of the very few truly important works of historical fiction to come out of Russia in our time. Tucker favorably compares Arbat, as "a novel of moral depth." with Boris Pasternak's masterwork, Doctor Zhivago. Twice before, in 1966 and 1978, Arbat was announced for publication, but both times it was mysteriously withdrawn. Two years ago. Poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko predicted that if the novel were ever published in the Soviet Union it would change the country.