This image is the cover for the book Engineers of the Soul

Engineers of the Soul

A “fascinating” account of how Gorky, Pasternak, and other great writers were coerced to create propaganda for Stalin (Cleveland Plain Dealer).

Sunday Times Best Travel Book of the Year

In the Soviet Union, writers of renown, described by Stalin as “engineers of the soul,” were encouraged to sing the praises of canal and dam construction under titles such as Energy: The Hydraulic Power Station and Onward, Time! But their enthusiasm—spontaneous and idealistic at first—soon became obligatory, and as these colossal waterworks led to slavery and destruction, Soviet writers such as Maxim Gorky, Isaak Babel, Konstantin Paustovsky, and Boris Pasternak were forced to labor on in the service of a deluded totalitarian society.

Combining investigative journalism with literary history, Engineers of the Soul is a journey through contemporary Russia and Soviet-era literature. Frank Westerman, a correspondent living in post-Communist Moscow, examines both the culture landscape under Stalin’s rule and the books—and lives—of writers caught in the wheels of the Soviet system as art and reality were bent to radically new purposes.

“Engagingly written and extensively researched, the book covers compelling historical and literary ground.” —Financial Times

“A detailed and enthralling account of his journey through Soviet literature including discovering the revolution’s best kept secrets while trying to appreciate the talented writers who created a web of deceit in the name of success.” —Publishers Weekly

“A literary travelogue revealing a remarkable geography and a strange, fraught alliance when the pen was not as mighty as the hammer and sickle of the Soviet Union . . . insightful.” —Kirkus Reviews

Frank Westerman

Frank Westerman lived and worked in Moscow from 1997 to 2002 as correspondent for the leading Dutch NRC Handelsblad newspaper. Westerman is the author of seven books, including Ararat.

The Overlook Press