Gary Dexter

Surprising literary ventures | 29 October 2005

Trilogy(1978) by Leonid Brezhnev

Trilogy(1978) by Leonid Brezhnev

Leonid Brezhnev produced the standard documents for a Soviet leader: speeches, articles and Leninophiliac tracts. In 1978 he added three books of jaunty memoirs: Little Land, Rebirth and The Virgin Lands, which told of his part in the Great Patriotic War and its immediate aftermath. Sample scenes include him single-handedly repelling a Nazi attack, then leading the way across a mined potato field. Since he had spent the war as a political commissar rather than a military officer, these were not regarded by everyone at the time as exhibiting the most complete veracity. Little Land in particular is notable for a photo of Brezhnev relaxing with fellow soldiers which has been doctored so obviously that several of the men’s heads look as though they’ve been re-drawn by Terry Gilliam. Brezhnev nevertheless received the Lenin Prize for Literature for his efforts. Many Russians believed the achievement was all the more remarkable for someone who was under 24-hour sedation. As the joke went: somebody knocks at the door of Brezhnev’s office. Brezhnev fumbles in his jacket pocket, takes out a piece of paper and reads: ‘Who’s there?’

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