The Priest Who was Never Baptisedby Nikolai Leskov, translated by James MuckleBramcote Press, 81 Rayneham Road, Ilkeston, Derbyshire, DE7 8RJ, £13.95, pp. 216, ISBN 1900405121
In 1936 Stalin walked out of the opera Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk which for two years had been performing with great success in Moscow and Leningrad. He objected that it was ‘modernist’, vulgarly sensational that is to say, as well as disgustingly pornographic. In fact altogether nekulturny. It was very nearly the end of poor young Shostakovich’s career; he had been just 26 when he completed the opera. With one or two alterations it was based on Leskov’s powerful sketch of 1865 with the same title. But it was not Leskov but the young composer against whom Stalin now invoked the party line.