Chingiz Aitmatov's recent novel I dol'she veka dlitsia den’ provides an excellent case study of the way the socialist realist canon can generate new paradigms out of itself. At a time when it is widely assumed in the West that all reputable Soviet authors have gone “beyond” socialist realism, the appearance of this novel is particularly instructive.
Aitmatov's book has had greater impact in the Soviet Union than any other novel published there in recent years. It covers subjects that are both highly topical and sensitive politically. Yet it does so by using the conventions of socialist realism to a greater extent than has been seen in the major Soviet writing of the past fifteen years. Indeed, Aitmatov has somehow contrived to weave into the fabric of his text patterns reminiscent of every period in the development of socialist realism.