Ain Shams University
Faculty of Al-Alsun
Department of English
A Manifestation of Historiography in Child 44 (2009) by Tom Rob Smith
Submitted by: Hebatallah Medhat Kamel Ahmed
Supervised by: Iman El-Tamy
Table of Contents Page Number
1- Thesis Statement……………………………………………….3
3- I. Historiography………………………………………………..10
4- II. Child 44 (2009) by Tom Rob Smith…………………………18
5- Conclusion………………………………………………………. 34
6- Works Cited……………………………………………………… 35
The research tackles a manifestation of Historiography in Tom Rob Smith’s Child 44 through the themes of family, visions of Russia and violence, power and patriotism, and fear and survival and the techniques of irony, flashback, foreshadowing, and illusion.
a- Conal Furay and Conal Furay and Michael J. Salevouris’s in The methods and skills of history: a practical guide defines historiography as “the study of how history has been written and the history of historical writing.” Therefore, when someone studies historiography, s/he does not only study historical events, rather the different interpretations of such events.
b- Jacques Szaluta states, in Theory and Practice, that psychohistory is the “application of psychology to the study of the past.”
c- New Historicism is the study that seeks to grasp the meaning of a text by understanding the past, the historical events, and the ideas that prevailed in the era of that text. It is concerned with the political function of literature and the concept of power.
a- The origins of historiography is not very clear, since there is what is known as Ancient Egyptian historiography, Christian historiography, American historiography, Indian historiography, etc.
b- It is argued that it first appeared in Europe with Hallett Carr’s 1961 work What is History?
c- However, Eileen Ka-May Cheng, in Exceptional History? The Origins of Historiography in the United States article, states that “historiography first emerged as a legitimate subject of historical inquiry in the united states during the period from 1890 to the 1930s by focusing on the practice of historiography by three of the most influential American historiographers whose work spans this period: J. Franklin Jameson, John Spencer Bassett, and Harry Elmer Barnes.”
Time and place are mostly historical. However, the novel might sometimes take place in the future or in a non-historical or imaginary place, events resemble some historical incidents.
Characters can be real or fictional, but they reflect the time and place. Mostly, they behave in a very serious way and carries the norms, customs, and traditions of their time. They can represent a psychological stance.
It is shaped around certain historical events. It depends on real or fictional events, or a mix of both. It also has to be intriguing and does not tell events of the past rather to tell a story.
It must be realistic to the time and place of the novel. It is usually intriguing and internal.
It represents the culture, knowledge, and traditions of the period. Some historical novels are based on internal dialogue and stream of consciousness.
Themes usually fit with historical events. They are related to life, especially the political and social states of the time of the novel.
Authors employ many techniques like foreshadowing and flash back to grab the readers’ attention. They make use of illusions often to hold a comparison between the past, present, and the future. Moreover, stream of consciousness reveals usually their political and social opinions.
Mostly, it is an open ending to give the reader a chance to interpret history based on facts and events in the novel.
a- Charles Dickens id one of historical literary writing pioneers. Most of his novels such as A Tale of Two Cities and Oliver Twist address the past and social and political issues.
b- George Orwell’s novels have a future narrating, they are concerned with societies and politics in the future.
c- Tom Rob Smith is concerned with reinterpreting the past, especially the past of the Soviet Union.
a- A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens is considered a historical masterpiece of the Parisian and London circumstances at the time of the French revolution.
b- 1984 by George Orwell has a fictional setting in the future where authority manipulate people psychologically through a constant state of war.
c- Child 44 discusses the Soviet Union under Stalin with an emphasis on social problems and murders.
II- Child 44 (2009) by Tom Rob Smith:
a- Tom Rob Smith bases his novel on the two Soviet incidents of The Holodomor. It is said it was created by Stalin himself to break the Ukrainian national spirit and to dominate them.
b- Rostov Ripper is a famous Russian killer who killed and cannibalized more than 50 children and women.
a- Child 44 is a crime fiction thriller founded on historical events.
a- The novel is set within the Soviet Union but in different cities. On the other hand, time constantly changes.
b- The time of the novel is around the death of Stalin.
a- Family relationships is a recurrent and important theme in child 44. Smith tackles different family relationships such as brother-brother, father/mother-son, and husband-wife relationships.
b- Great Visions of Russia is intertwined with violence and injustice. The number of prisons only exceeds the number of hospitals.
c- Patriotism is defined with power. The more power one obtains the more patriotic s/he is viewed.
d- To survive living in the USSR, fear must be an essence of everyday life. It controls characters behavior as if they are puppets.
a- Irony is employed to reveal the cruelty of life and circumstances. The word itself is repeated four times in the novel.
b- Time order reveals characters past and future. Flashback and foreshadowing give more hints of characters emotions, darkest memories, and unknown destiny.
c- Smith alludes to For Whom the Bell Tolls and The History of All-Union Communist Party. The first can be viewed as a cruel joke whereas the other is not a joke at all.
a- Child 44 is not divided into chapters, rather into different times and places related to children’s murders.
a- Leo is a 30-year-old MGB officer with a huge secret lurking in the past. He is portrayed through different roles: as a son and a brother, as an MGB officer and a leader, and as a husband and human being.
b- Raisa is Leo’s wife; she is given a feminist role. She is a strong character and represent the psychology of the Russian artists.
a- Child 44 is based on elements of coincidence and suspense. Such elements are founded by the investigation that attempts to hunt down the murderer.
a- The structure of the novel is not easily analyzed. Since it is hard to find a climax in a thriller novel; however, the turning point is rather clear.
a- The language is gloomy, eloquent, and expressive. Still, it represents the circumstances of the period and the characters.
The Conclusion Follows
I- A manifestation of Historiography in literature
Historiography is defined, according to Conal Furay and Michael J. Salevouris’s The methods and skills of history: a practical guide, as “the study of the way history has been and is written—the history of historical writing…. When you study ‘historiography’ you do not study the events of the past directly, but the changing interpretations of those events in the works of individual historians”(15). In other words, historiography is a documentation or a narration process of the past rather than enlisting the facts of it. It tackles and focuses on historians’ interpretations, presentations, whether based on evidence or not, and points of view. Moreover, historiography term is employed to indicate a certain period in history, such as Medieval Historiography, Islamic Historiography, and Ancient Egyptian Historiography. In addition, Historiography can belong to one of three sections. The first section regards history as a minor, so no purpose or importance comes from studying it. The second section looks at history as a natural outcome or a product of evolution. The third and final section is deriving history from a religious or a secular point of view. Later on, Edward Hallett Carr’s What is History has questioned the attitude towards history as being useless and unimportant to examine. This has gradually led to an increasing speculation over history and historiography, and what is known now as historiography literature has begun to come into existence. It started to receive much more attention than political or economic historiography. A statistics declares that in the period from 1975 to 1995, the percentage of history professors in American universities identifying with social history rose from 31% to 41%, while the professors of political history fell from 40% to 30%. Those social history professors are interested in the change of history interpretations by historian over time. For instance, women, minorities, and labour are peeled off historians’ books in the 1960s. Critical historiography concentrated on such removal. Therefore, many historians now dedicate themselves to the most accurate representations of the past, so do novelists who found their works on history. In addition, historiography demands a critical approach that goes farther than facts. For instance, Kenneth Stampp, a Professor of history and Emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley, is criticized of ignoring some facts when he derived his information on the life of slave owners and salves from the diaries kept by slave owners only. Accordingly, he produced The Peculiar Institution: Slavery in the Ante-Bellum South without taking into consideration the economic history of slavery.
Moreover, the idea of a historian reflecting his age is also related to Carr’s more general ideas about bias and interpretation. Carr also tried to give a clear definition to the ‘fact’ in the first chapter, ”The Historian and His Facts”, of his book. He was led then to the idea that history is written through the selection of facts/evidence, and that, the whole process of writing history, is finally an act of interpretation. Based on Collingwood’s ideas, Carr states three main points. Firstly, “history means interpretation”. Secondly, the historian needs an ‘imaginative understanding’ of the mind-set of the people he/she studies. Finally, we can only look at the past “through the eyes of the present, as even the language used embodies that perspective.” (18-20.).In fact, some criticism and problems are aroused due to writing history through the selection of facts, especially when an outsider writes about other people’s culture. Such things were explored in the work of Edward Said (1978, 1994). Anthropological speaking, Clifford Geertz puts it, in The Interpretation of Culture “…how one can know that anything one says about other life forms is as a matter of fact so” (71). In addition, The Nigerian novelist Chinua Achebe, referring to Joseph Conrad’s classic novel Heart of Darkness (1899) in his article titled An Image of Africa ,published on The Massachusetts Review, described it as reducing “Africa to the role of props for the breakup of one petty European mind” which raises “the question is whether a novel which celebrates this dehumanization, which depersonalizes a portion of the human race, can be called a great work of art” (782). Consequently, one can conclude that people should not write but on their own histories.
There are many styles and schools of historiography. One of them is called Annales School; it has its name from the French journal, Annales d’histoire économique et sociale established in 1929. The school has focued on what creates the psychology of a period or on its underlying mentalities. Fernand Braudel (1902 – 1985) is considered a prominent member of Annales School. Another style or school is Big History which started in the 1980s and concentrated on huge themes or patterns that extends across traditional periods of history. Concerning Deconstruction, it is based on the approach of Jacques Derrida. Deconstruction has the belief that texts force certain ideas on their readers; therefore, they try to dominate people’s view of the world. Deconstruction strives to present in its sources internal paradoxes, repressed information, and presumptions about society and the world. Diplomatic history is connected with the German historian Leopold von Ranke (1795 – 1886). Ranke attempted to establish history from the sources, information, and documents valid from each certain time and place. Since he believed that theories don not have the ability cutting across time and space. He had a huge interest in international relations, in other words diplomat history, and utilized diaries intending to write history as it actually made much use of narrative and diaries, aiming thus to write as it actually was. Historiophoty focuses on the history viewed visually through film, and it is developed by Hayden White. However, History from Below gives attention for the first time to lower classes or those who were considered as inferiors, such as women, the poor, or non-Europeans. It contradicts the usual way of reciting history that only listened to the voices of social and academic elite. It is developed from the Annales approach. Concerning Marxist historiography, it is derived from Karl Marx (1818 – 1883), and it views history as a dialect that will eventually lead to the creation of a classless society. Marxist historiography, similar to history from below, is concerned with the conditions of the poor and working classes, and how capitalists dominate the masses. Another style is Meta-history which regards objectivity of historical writings questionably. Like Hayden White puts it in his Meta-history: The Historical Imagination in Nineteenth-Century “that writers including journalists bring theories (or archetypes) to bear on their sources that shape what they write.” (56) Micro-history is founded in the 1970s.It addresses the history of a small area like a village or an artistic work of a person of national essence.
Furthermore, there is Oral history which started in the U.S. in the 1930s, in the Library of Congress. Such style is concerned with the histories of illiterate peoples and societies. It often is employed to reach the views of ordinary people and can be regarded as a form of history from below. Universal history, from its name, is the display of all the histories of human beings as a whole. The first five chapters can be a perfect example. Universal histories in the 19th century increased, and some philosophers, such as Hegel and Marx, presented theories that had some characteristics resembling these of the Bible. They thought of history as a unit ruled by characteristics or unchanged principles. On the other hand, World history concludes that much of the written is too Euro- or North America-centred. When the World History Association was established in the 1980s, World history is originated as a separate field of historical study. It resembles Universal history in viewing history from a global point of view. In contrast with history of the nineteenth and early twentieth century that mainly placed much focus on national and ethnic perspectives. It searches for shared or common patterns that come up across all universal cultures. Historians apply use a thematic way along with two significant wide themes, mainly integration and difference. Integration means how they see the world history as something which have drawn people together. Whereas difference signifies how the patterns of world history cover up reveal diversification of the human experience. Political history is what most people agreed upon as people as history. It is the rule and achievements of Kings, Presidents, states, empires, wars, and battles. Another type is Prosopography, which targets individuals; it gathers all information and data about a person. Revisionism, on contrary, denies certain historical events and attempts to write history. Regarding Social history, it is concerned with the social trends that developed through time instead of political developments. Psychohistory regards with concern psychological motives behind the actions that had an impact on history. It studies the psyche of people at these historical periods. The main concern out of these types of historiography is psycho-historiography that, somehow, combines many of them.
Jacques Szaluta defines psychohistory, in his In Psychohistory: Theory and Practice, as “the application of psychology, in its broadest sense, or psychoanalysis in a specific sense, to the study of the past.” (1). While Henry Lawton in The Psycho-historian’s Handbook, describes it as “the interdisciplinary study of why man has acted as he has in history, prominently utilizing psychoanalytic principles.” (5) He adds then that psychohistory “is essentially interpretive” (7) instead of narrative. Psychohistory’s main concern is the ‘why’ of history, why people tend to behave in that way, their stated intention and actual behaviour. Psychohistory proves to become the centre of attention of many critics and professors. Many professors tried to give a clear definition of psychohistory. For instance, Peter Loewenberg, a pioneer psycho-historian writes in Decoding the Past: The Psycho-historical Approach, that “psychohistory, one of the newest methods of historical research, combines historical analysis with social science models, humanistic sensibility, and psychodynamic theory and clinical insights to create a fuller, more rounded view of life in the past” (14). George Kren thinks that believed that psychohistory is the gate of psychological studies to history. It acknowledges the driven motives and actions by the subconscious and, that they are not exposed to immediate observation. Therefore, psychohistory should not be an independent field of study, but it ought to be joined to understanding history generally. Psychohistory approach can be applied to historiography literature and historical novel.
Historical novel is defined as a novel that has the setting of a historical period, and it reflects manners, ideas, thoughts, and social conditions of this period, with some realistic detail. On the other hand, they do not have represent a past historical period. They can be set in the future but with the characteristics of a past period, or with an expectation of what would the future look like, and in that case the characters may share many traits with some famous past people. Sometimes they deal with historical character as does Robert Graves’s I, Claudius, or it may contain a mixture of fictional and historical characters. It may focus on a single historic event. It also attempts to portray a picture of the society in a certain age through fictional characters. The primary characteristic of historical novels is the setting which should depend on an authentic sense of place and time. It is then brought to life by details such as culture, costumes, food, and customs and traditions. Sarah Stone and Ron Nyren, in Deepening Fiction, write that “descriptions of details are a big part of what makes the setting of the story come alive” (43). Another characteristic of historical fiction is the characters. While most of the characters of historical novels are fictional and some of them may be real, both have to keep with the era they inhabit, with the political and social trends of such period. However, to write a novel based on a real figure the author should take a dual care of this character; it must represent the beliefs, ideas, thoughts, and circumstances of this character. Also, there can be some novels with fictional characters that is, in fact, derived from a real character in real life, as in, as in John Jakes’ Kent Family Chronicles. Joyce G. Saricks, in The Readers’ Advisory Guide to Genre Fiction, explains that character-oriented historical fiction “often provides a very intimate portrayal of the protagonist” (32).
As for the plot, it is shaped around historical character or historical events that the reader can feel that the story has really happened or could have happened. It also has to make sense of the time. The conflict should be also based on realistic event to the time period, and should have reasons based on the norms of the time period. That is basically how ”historical novel can be distinguished from other groups of novels” (20), said Harry E. Shaw in his first chapter an approach to the historical novel book of his book The Forms of Historical Fiction. However, “not in terms of a defining compositional technique (the picaresque novel), nor through its power to evoke a set of emotions (the gothic or sentimental novel) , and certainly not in terms of the period in which it was written (the eighteenth-century novel)” (20). The major distinction lies in the social environment that it represents. Shaw then extends his argument by stating that there is what is called as the “concept of fictional probability in a historical novel” (22). In novels generally, probability springs from our knowledge and ideas of societies and the world. In historical novels specifically, Shaw states that “the major source of probability is specifically historical.”(22) To elaborate, if the novel portrays ”societies, modes of speech, or events that in very fact existed in the past” (24), then the probability ”points outwardly points outward from the work to the world it represents” (24). On the other hand, if the work, in itself, raises a sort of historical influence, “such as providing an entry for the reader into the past, in which case the probability points inward to the design of the work itself” (24). In other words, history in historical novels is fore-grounded; the reader receives their events, language, characters, and setting to be historical. Moreover, one can say that historical novel is a work in which probability extends to “a certain level of structural prominence” (25). Furthermore, Historical novels also have emerged with the rise of historicism; thus, historical fiction cannot be perceived unless history is recognized as a principal part of it. Avrom Fleishman, the literary critic, and the historian Herbert Butterfield attempted to distinguish historical novels from historiography, or to define the value that historical share. As For Butterfield, historiography tries to “make a generalization, to find a formula,” since it regards history as “a whole process of development that leads up to the present” (3).
However, the historical novel attempts to “reconstruct a world, to particularize, to catch a glimpse of human nature”(3). It strives to recapture a glimpse of the past, to visualize it. In contrast, Fleishman sees that the historical novelist achieves what resembles more the task Butterfield sets the historian: “What makes a historical novel historical, is the active presence of a concept of history as a shaping force”(25). Concerning the dialogue, words spoken by the characters have to reflect the knowledge and thoughts of the people at that time. It should have the vocabulary and grammar structure of the past, as many words have changed their meaning over time. Another important thing about historical writing is being objective. Writers should remain objective to the events and try not insert their own ideas and conclusions through their characters. As for themes, they usually represent and cope with the time period. Themes are related to life, people, social, political events as well as good versus bad/evil and other universal timeless themes. . Myfanwy Cook’s book Historical Fiction Writing: A Practical Guide and Tool kit contains a long list of potential themes, such as ambition, madness, loyalty, deception, revenge, all is not what it appears to be, love, temptation, guilt, power, fate/destiny, heroism, hope, coming of age, death, loss, friendship, patriotism. The style of the novel depends on techniques such as foreshadowing, and the tone is a mirror to the values and spirit of time and culture. The reader should finally question the truth of the novel or in other words feel that it really happened. One of the best historiography novels is Charles Dickens A Tale of Two Cities. It combines the characteristics of historical fiction in a perfect way. The setting of the story is a real place in the world with an important time in history. Characters reflect the norms, ideas, conflicts of their time and society. Another important novel is 1984 by George Orwell. It is set in the future in a fictional country. It addresses psychological, social, and political issues. The main hero is a man called Winston Smith who fights against authority. Finally, Child 44 is written by Tom Rob Smith. It tackles political and also social issues and circumstances at the times of the Soviet Union under Stalin’s rule. The novel is a retelling of Rostov Ripper, the Russian serial killer who was not arrested for many years.
II- Child 44 (2009) by Tom Rob Smith
Tom Rob Smith bases his novel on two main events that took place in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) under Stalinism. The first of them is The Great Famine of 1932, the Holodomor, also known as Ukrainian Genocide. The other is Andrei Chikatilo, famous for The Rostov Ripper. It could be argued that Stalin has not only caused the Great Famine of 1932 but also has taken part in creating a serial killer out of Andrei Chikatilo. In her Remember the Peasantry, a study on the Holodomor, Lisa Morgan includes different recollections of the famine. One of these recollections, or pleas, is William Strang’s, the Counselor of the British Embassy. Strang informed the Foreign Office in May 1933 that the famine and the regime “had reduced working people to starvation, barbarity, and even cannibalism” (47). Smith represent such facts in the first chapter of Child 44 “your brother is dead. He has been taken for food… just as you hunted that cat, someone was hunting you” (17). On listing the outcomes of the Holodomor on children, Lisa Morgan says that “the children were likened to those observed later in the Nazi examination camps:
Their heads like heavy balls on thin little necks, like storks, and one could see each bone of their arms and legs protruding from beneath the skin, how bones joined, and the entire skeleton was stretched over skin that was like yellow gauze (33).
After 1933, it seems that the Holodomor has further consequences. It resulted in the formation of Andrei Chikatilo. John Jenkins in his article on Chikatilo said that “he grew on the aftermath of the Great Famine and was constantly told by his mother that his brother was kidnapped and eaten by neighbors” (12). Chikatilo was born in 1936 in Ukraine and died in 1994 in Moscow. During his lifetime, he killed and cannibalized more than 50 women and children. He always killed along the railways and bus stops in different cities. He travelled carrying his briefcase that contained a long knife and other tools. Smith states in his interview with The Guardian that “Chikatilo was not a smart killer, the reason why he was not arrested earlier is because the Soviet Union did not and refused to acknowledge the existence of a serial killer” (15). Child 44 is basically built upon Stalinism and Stalin himself, since all these incidents are related closely to him; he has been their founder.
Toby Clements describes the title child 44, in his review published in The Telegraph, that it “sounds like a cut-price misery memoir.” (11) However, on page 188 of the novel, the reader comes to know the significance of it. The number represents Arkady, the 44th child killed by Andrei, whose murder turns the life of Leo up-side down. Children murders reflect the ideologies of the Soviet Union. Mainly, there cannot be a murder in a socialist society, only capitalists have such crimes. Moreover, the number 44 is related to the setting. For even numbers have bad connotation in Russia. They are said to bring foul, death, and misfortune. Moreover, Smith at the end of the novel matches the title with “44 Stalinist Facts” (293). Such facts are horribly unbelievable. Moreover, Child 44 is a crime fiction thriller based on real historical events. It tells the story of an MGB officer who hunts a serial killer. The said serial killer has murdered and cannibalized more than 44 children. The novel also tackles the Soviet Union under Stalinism. It presents social, political, and cultural issues. The back of the novel contains an interview with Tom Rob Smith. He says that he has been affected by the thriller show 24 “I wanted to write a book that is as exciting as 24.” (297) Smith also has strived to a book which “you could get wrapped up in, a book you could read standing up, a book you would miss your tube stop for” (298). Therefore, he has chosen the crime fiction genre and set it in the fertile land of mysteries, the Soviet Union.
As for the scenery, child 44 is not divided into a certain number of chapters, rather into times and places:
Twenty years later
The village of kimov
One hundred and sixty kilometers north of Moscow (6).
In addition, the number of pages between them is not consistent. The gap of time and the distance between places are not represented with the number of pages. For instance, “three weeks later” (17) comes after 11 pages only. The same is true for places. As page 51 starts with Moscow and shifts to the west of the Ural Mountains the town of Voualsk in page 99. Based on contents and page numbers, there is no certain pattern followed by the author in the organization of the novel. It is almost haphazard which, one may say, is both opposite and similar to the society of the Soviet Union. The contrast materializes in the many laws and regulations the Soviet Union had under Stalinism. Whereas similarity appears in the chaos, disorder, and havoc spreading and originating from the very same laws and regulations. Moreover, Tom Rob Smith, as a writer of crime fiction, he did not care about chapters but about times and places of crimes whether committed by individuals or government.
Since it is a crime fiction thriller mingled with historical facts, child44 is heavily interwoven with and based on elements of coincidence and elements of suspense. Both elements create what Toby Clements describes as “a pretty standard thriller plot” (8), in his review of the novel published in The Telegraph. The novel starts with the disappearance a-10-years old, child. The boy is thought to be murdered, but, unexpectedly, 20 years pass with no reflection on the boy’s destiny. Coincidence interferes in the second chapter when another child’s murder takes place “a boy aged four years and ten months had been found dead on the railway lines” (20). The reader is not given the tiniest chance to apprehend the first or the second murder since the shift is brought about towards a state security case. A spy, though innocent, is executed damning the MGB officer with hallucination and his wife with denunciation. The reader is taken off guard by the denunciation, especially after Leo’s description of the creeps and horrors of Russian prisons and gulags. Soon, it becomes impossible not to be engaged and intrigued by Leo’s heart- mind conflict: whether he denounce his wife and save himself and his parents, or “to do the right thing, the decent thing…to tell them that Raisa is innocent- and to brave the consequences that come from that” (87). After stating that “My wife is innocent” (93), coincidence shows up again in transporting Leo to a small town where two other children murders occur. In fact, these two murders resemble the one in Moscow:
Multiple stab wounds
Blade indeterminate length
Extensive damage to the torso and internal organs…
Mouth was full of soil but she did not suffocate (140).
Besides these two murders, which Leo has earlier stated the impossibility of existence, Leo’s and Raisa’s relationship finally lay bare. The prospect of them becoming a loving, normal husband and wife, a family is put into question. Their future is also fused with death and blood.
Moreover, several chapters start with new unknown characters, and other chapters end the same way. With nothing being revealed about them in the next chapter, the reader is left thirsty for more information. Furthermore, each and every new chapter adds fuel to the investigation. Until Leo and Raisa get arrested there lies the mystery of the young boy, Pavel, who is thought to be murdered in the first chapter. Now coincidence really hits, that the reader figures out the relationship between the MGB officer and the children murderer “his awkward, shy little brother- murderer of the at least 44 children” (287). The murderer is no one but the 8-year-old Andrei who found his brother’s blood mixed with snow, and who saves him when the former wanted to kill him. All this suspense in the novel has been originally created to be acted in Hollywood “it was plotted as a film scenario, not as a novel” (15), which is what Tom Rob Smith said in his interview with The Guardian dated 2nd of March 2008. As for the structure, it is not easy to be analyzed. Action rises starting from the first chapter and does not fall until the last page, for something is always being hunted from the very beginning. The turning point in Leo’s life takes place when he is informed that that she is suspected of spying. Leo’s life has changed completely since this moment, even his character. He becomes less powerful and more sentimental. The Pavel within him appears. He is demoted and has no control over his destiny, as he expects death in any minute. Action reaches its highest point when he finds out about the other two murders in Voulsak. The investigation is carried out, and along the way leo discovers things about himself, his wife, and his fellow Russians. The most important discoveries are those of Leo and Raisa, and the distinctions between the village and the city. Leo is then led to the final and crucial discovery, the resolution. He finds out that it is his brother the murderer, so he kills him. Even the long feud between him and Vasili is solved by Vasili’s death.
Child44 is set in the Union of the Soviet socialist republics and in and around the end of Stalin’s rule. Smith has employed different dates but two of them rise into prominence; 1933 and 1953. The first of them is marked for the great famine, or the Holodomor. The Holodomor and Stalin’s regime, according to Lisa Morgan’s study titled Remember the Peasantry, “has led people to feed on orphans, so the orphanage becomes a slaughter house” (60). Therefore, smith describes the setting with words carrying the vibe of death and silence. He depicts the Ukrainian village of Chervoy as being “snuffed out by heavy snowfall, all signs of life extinguished… much of the snow undisturbed: there were hardly any footprints and not a single path had been dug” (8). Stalin died in 1953; a fact smith included in the novel. As if he wants to compare Russia under Stalin and after Stalin. However, there is hardly a difference. Smith shifted his setting to Moscow in 1953, the heart of the Soviet Union. It is an image of a bigger prison. Where death, fear, and violence take control. Every building in the Soviet Union , especially Moscow, cries with imprisonment; “no more privately owned one or two-story properties, those were gone, flattened, smashed to brick dust, and in their place perfectly formed, government- designed and owned apartments”(77). The headquarters of the MGB, the Lubyanka, has the influence of making people “uneasy, as though fear has been factored into the design” (55). In other words, the setting of Child44 signifies Stalin’s ideologies of ruling, namely terror, imprisonment, and violence.
In Child 44 Smith discusses family relationships: brother-brother, father/mother – child, and husband-wife relationships. Tracing family relationships chronologically, the novel starts with a woman named Maria who takes care of a cat as if it is her daughter or son. In a time when people eat cats to survive, for Maria it is different. The cat i8s not something to eat, but “something to live for, something to protect and love.” (12) A 10-year-old boy then is presented. Pavel, to protect whom he loves, has to take the role of his father, that is the responsibility of a mother, Oskana, and an 8-year-old brother, Andrei. Oskana and Andrei reason to live is Pavel. Thus, when he disappears, when he is thought to be dead, Oskana loses her mind. She destroys Andrei creating a monster out of him “she would realize I was not you. She would be furious, she would hit me and hit me until all her anger was gone” (277). On the other hand, Andrei has always known that Pavel did not die. He becomes sure when he saw his picture in the newspapers. Without Pavel, Andrei has gotten completely broken and mentally devastated. Since he has been left alone in the woods by the brother whom “when we were together I never felt the world was unfair, even when we had no food, even when it was bitterly cold” (278), he starts a series of children killings to get his brother back home. He hunts them just like he and Pavel hunted the cat in the past, leaving in his tracks marks that would lead Pavel to him. As for Leo, who is actually Pavel, he cannot do without a family even if they are not his real one. He has considered and treated Stepan and Anna, his kidnappers, as his own father and mother. He guarantees them a better life and never stops fighting for them. They become a weakness used against him by Vasili “applying pressure where he was vulnerable _ his family.” (109) Even after being demoted, Leo depends on Raisa and her fake pretense of pregnancy as a last shred of hope, of having “a new life, as a family.” (89) Likewise, General Nestrov’s family is his reason to live, to keep going. He promises them a better life and he does his best to provide them with one. He refuses at first to help Leo in his investigation because it will danger his family’s life. To many of the novel characters, family is a strength, a weakness, a motive to continue, and a reason to fall apart.
Similar to the number in the title, Smith provides his novel with “44 Stalinist Statistics”. The list can be regarded as a historical proof of the so-called Great Visions of Russia based on violence, and the lack of justice in the Russian judicial system. He starts the second chapter with an MGB, the State Security Force, officer and one of his arrests. The State Security Force has been founded on cruelty. One of its core principles, established by Feliks Dzerzhinsky, is “an officer must train his heart to be cruel… cruelty is a virtue. Cruelty is necessary” (66). MGB’s mission is not protecting citizen or solving crimes but cultivating fear. The monster that acquires a constant refill of human beings. Therefore, there have been other two prisons in Moscow apart from the Gulags and Lubyanka, whose “façade created the impression of watchfulness.” (68). One of these two prisons in Butyrka, it is a prison with tall towers and cramped cells. The other is Lefortovo where thought to be suspects are interrogated and where “screams could be heard from neighboring streets.” (69) As a consequence “how easily and quickly a human remains could be cleaned away became an issue” (72). Still, violence could be justified and honored. It is necessary for a perfect state, a better future, and a “golden age where none of this brutality would exist, where everything would be in plenty and poverty would be a memory” (57). Thus, justice is not needed, since what is a person compared to these visions, the machinery, factories and buildings of the Soviet Union “trust but check” or “check on those we trust” (53) becomes the soviet bible. Stalinist bible has eventually led to “179000 prisoners in the gulags system in 1930 and the number then rose to 2468524 prisoners in 1953” (297). Not only prisons, violence and injustice ruled living conditions orphanages and work. It is rather normal for 2 families each consists of 7 or 8 members to live in a 2-room apartment without an inside bathroom or running hot water. Getting and buying food also is an unbearable chore, since the “number of people queuing outside one shop in Leningrad for groceries is 6000.” (297) Young children in orphanages are treated less than dogs. Orphanages usually are places full with children mixed with dirt, with nothing to eat but “watery cabbage soup,” (166) and a huge chance of getting raped. Non-orphans are not educated to be authors, scientists, or poets but athletes. They are trained to be violent, competitive, and scared “only children still believe in friends and only stupid children at that” (70). As for work, being late more than 15 minutes can get someone to the Gulags. Very old people where given the missions of the young. Moreover, no one was allowed to sleep more than 4 hours at night. Perhaps one can say that these are not the Great Visions of the Soviet Union, rather the vicious, violent visions of the Soviet Union. Competitive, and to fear “only children still believe in friends and only stupid children in that” (70). As for work, being late more than 15 minutes can get someone to the gulags. Very old people were given the missions and responsibilities of the young. Moreover, no one was allowed to sleep more than 4 hours at night. Perhaps one can say that these are not these great visions of the Soviet Union rather than vicious, violent visions of the Soviet Union.
In the Soviet Union a relationship between power and patriotism materializes. However, such relationship is not clear. Which of them which of them leads to the other or does one have to be powerful so others can see him patriotic? The answers can be found in the characters in power: Leo, Vasili, general Nestrov, and Major Kuzmin. Leo is an MGB officer, a position along which comes a great deal of bower. Nevertheless, Leo’s actions spring from his sense of patriotism and love towards his country. They are not an act of maintaining power he believes in the ideologies and visions of the Soviet Union and the MGB, that “it is better to let the innocent men suffer than one spy escape” (56), that he “scratch away at innocence until guilt was uncovered” only for “the greater good. The greater good” (86). Once Leo has been arrested, in fact once he asked to denounce Raisa, everything he has done for his country evaporates. He hunted down like criminals and spies. Unlike Leo, Vasili denounces people, even his brother, as an act of showing loyalty to his country. Such methods also proved very effective in rising in power. Therefore, it is an act of seizing power rather an act of patriotism. He represents an idealist citizen and MGB officer. On the other hand, arresting a children murderer does not make of someone, who is not in power, a patriotic man but an enemy. General Nestrov got arrested and beaten to stop the investigation and denounce Raisa. Since “crime simply do not exist.” (298) the most powerful character in child 44 is Major Kuzmin. Thus, his love to his country and patriotism are out of question. He has the privilege of arresting and executing anyone under Stalin’s notion “trust but check” or “check on those we trust. ” (68) Eventually, now the previous question becomes easier to figure an answer for. That being powerful will grant one a virtuous and nationalistic traits even if they do not exist.
Living in the USSR and surviving is almost impossible. Each and every one has to keep his/her head down, or get charged with anti-Satanism and sentenced 25 years in gulags, at least. Moreover, education, health, and human rights deteriorated, but fear grew, “fear was cultivated.” (52) Fear thus survived, dominated, and lurked in every corner in the USSR and “terror was necessary. Terror protected the revolution.” (52) Characters of child44 understand this fact: to survive, you must fear. Beginning with Pavel, the hero, he has knew, since he was 10, that fear and survival are inseparable twins. Therefore, he has abandoned his family and identity, has taken the name of his kidnapers’ son, and has treated them better than a son should treat his parents. He was scared, terrified that one day they might desire eating him again; hence “I did everything in my power to make them love me. It was about survival” (285). As a mechanism and as being an officer in the Russian secret police, MGB, Leo exploited the selfsame fear to his benefit. Under the justification of survival, he arrested and executed people who are innocent, he knows by heart. Under the excuse of survival and fear, many characters commit terrible deeds. Not only Leo. Stepan and Anna have not bothered slaughtering a-10-year old boy and feeding him to their son, so the latter may survive. However, after he died they cook their own son feeding themselves and Pavel. Later on, they are fully ready to denounce Raisa. They have taken her for no more than a number “as I understand the situation, it is one life for three.” (87) Likewise, Raise has her own means of survival. She has married Leo, a man she both feared and loathed. The sole reason why she accepts him as a husband is “that is what people do. They put up with things; they tolerate in order to survive” (137). Raisa also defends herself against Dr Zrabin, who would not say the truth to the officials, that Leo is really sick and is not faking illness, if she refused sleeping with him. General Nestrov resembles Leo in his means of survival. He executes 2 innocent men and arrests more than 150 others, leaving in his tracks destroyed families and homes. As for Andrei who believes that “everyone has a reason to live” (282), Pavel has been his brother’s, and bringing him back home has been his sole wish and desire. He has bloodied his way back to him. Moreover, Andrei has fought his fear of being abandoned through murder; a fear lived under his skin since he was 8. Plainly and simply put, one can argue that fear and survival play with everyone like puppets, determining the course of their actions and lives.
Irony is a predominant technique employed in child44. In fact, the word itself is repeated 4 times throughout the novel. Starting with the state security force, the MGB, its very existence is ironical in itself. The force exploits horror and fear to better the lives of their citizens: “barbarity, certainly, but barbarity for a reason, barbarity for the greater good” (56). They are concerned with the “anti-Soviet agitation, counter-revolutionary activity” (52), a crime even a top ranking official ignores what exactly it is, and there is where irony dwells. Moreover, they are not certain whether “the system they sustained would not one day swallow them too” (53). Another ironical incident is Raisa’s pregnancy an event that Leo superiors have always wanted and once it happens, the want her dead. Moreover, and to the irony of fate, Leo is banished to a small town. Voulsak, hundreds of kilometers far from Moscow but still carries past and present issues related to him. In the past “Leo had been one of the gate keepers of this town” (122); his mission has been to transfer thousands of free worriers from around the cities to this small town to work in new factories. He would arrest whoever fails in the background checks and transfer who succeeded to die away from their families. He is transferred to the very same place where he has sent people to die away from their families and loved ones. However, and in the present, a child murder resembles the one in Moscow takes place “this was a vicious irony.” (131) Such murder he was previously ordered to cover up. Moreover, earlier in the novel, Leo has tied an innocent man, named Anatoly Brodsky, to a chair to be tortured and interrogated. Anatoly was injected with a thick, yellow oil which “induce a seizure. While you are in this this seizure you will be unable to lie” (61). Later on, though innocent too, Leo is tied to the same chair and injected with the same substance “the irony of ending up here, secured to a chair in a basement interrogation cell in the Lubyanka” (227). Moreover, and ironically, he has got the chance to experience the fear and worry of running for his life from the MGB. The inscribed words “fruits and vegetables” (237) on the trucks that carry people to the Gulags are “a cruel joke.” (237) Smith has managed to create of his characters’ lives a mix of irony and cruelty.
Foreshadowing and flashbacks are two techniques Smith employs in his novel. He plays with time back and forward giving hints of the past and the future. He starts with events in the dark past of Leo. He does not state them frankly but hints only through the description of mince and cabbage leaves “a row of thick, dismembered thumbs.” (88) The description alludes to when Leo, Pavel, has eaten the son of Stepan and Anna “he stared down at the steaming broth: crushed acorns floated on the surface alongside bright white knuckles and strips of flesh” (236). Leo then suffers from nightmares where he sees a boy “in the middle of the forest … had asked why they would abandon him. Why did you leave me?” (155) the nightmares do not only relate to Arkady but also to Andrei, his brother whom he left never bothering checking on him. Other events of Raisa’s past keep coming in her mind. She still remembers the Russian shells destroying her home and murdering her entire family. Besides, “the kind of things that happened to women refugees. Soldiers, they have needs … there where several” (268), which has made her unable to be pregnant. In fact, Smith only chooses painful memories to present. Perhaps since “Soviet Russia is itself a peculiar blend of horror and absurdity.” (298) concerning foreshadowing, Leo always keeps, at the beginning of the novel, wondering how it would feel being led through doors and corridors to the basement of the Lubyanka. Moreover, he senses danger whenever he is in the Headquarter of the MGB or surrounded by its members. The clothes of the executed man he wears for watching Raisa predicts his fast downfall due to her. Smith utilizes time to play with his readers’ minds and to engage them in their lives in the Soviet Union. Furthermore, he desires to state that under Stalin future does not get any better from the past.
Smith intertwines Child 44 with two allusions. He constantly refers to Earnest Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls and the Stalinist, Soviet bible The History of All-Union Communist Party. For Whom the Bell Tolls has the background of the Spanish civil war. A war that resembles the Russian’s in its outbreak and later consequences. The novel tells the story of an American college professor of Spanish called Robert Jordan. Robert joins the Loyalties in Spain to fight against fascism. He is a man of a Cause and fights skillfully for it. He is dedicated and determined to carry out orders since they are for the goodness of the cause. He is even willing to sacrifice himself and others. Only transformation takes place in his dedication when he falls in love with Maria. In fact if the reader closely examines the two novels, s/he will find huge similarities between their heroes, Robert Jordan and Leo Demidov. Both men fight for what they believe fiercely and blindly. However, they have their doubts sometimes. They keep brushing them aside. Still, they fully let go of that cause once they fall in love. They realize it does not worth dying for. Furthermore, since Hemingway’s novel fights fascism and calls for freedom, it is ironical to mention it in a world full of injustices. As for the Stalinist bible The History of All-Union Communist Party, it is not unusual to allude to in the novel. The book has been put by Stalin to set rules and regulations for his people. The book guides their belives and teaches them how to think. Thus, it can be said that Hemingway’s novel is a cruel joke to be mentioned but The History of All-Union Communist Party is not at all a joke.
Leo is a 30-year-old MGB officer. He is patriotic, loyal to his family and friends, and fierce in his believes. He is married to Raisa and it is not clear whether he truly loves her or not. Smith views Leo through different roles: as a brother and a son, as an MGB officer and leader, and as a husband and lover. As a son, leo is very dedicated and caring, with his true mother Oskana and Stepan and Anna “No, Leo. Listen to me. You’ve often behaved as if our love was dependent on the things you could do for us. Even as a child” (224). Smith has wanted to show the outstanding mentality of the MGB officer and leader through Leo. Moreover, foundations and principles of the MGB are presented. In The Officer’s Handbook: A Soviet View, translated by DGIS Multilingual Section, a whole chapter is dedicated to the foundations and principles of the Soviet military and another to the fundamentals of military psychology. The book states that “Soviet military psychology is based on scientific Marxist-Leninist methodology, and the sound natural science teaching on the physiology of higher nervous activity” (67). In other words, they study the mentality of the soldiers and officers “there are various methods of studying the mind. Observation and experiment are the principal methods” (68). Therefore, they are able to affect and manipulate their minds. That is exactly how Leo seems in the first chapters before he becomes certain of Anatoly’s innocence through investigation. He has used to push the truth aside till it hits him hardly in the face. However, Leo proves to be a really good leader who can control his soldiers. Just as his superiors understands his mentality perfectly, he does understand them. He employs the two principal methods, observation and experiment, to follow up their reactions and attitudes towards him as a leader:
Vasili glanced around for laughter and the men obliged. He wasn’t deluded: he recognized that none of them thought he was funny. Far better than that, their laughter was an indication that the balance of power had begun to shift. Their allegiance to Leo was weakening (89).
On the other hand, Leo could not understand his wife like his soldiers or even get her respect. He is weak, almost a robot like in his marriage, despite trying to be a better husband. Unfortunately, his position dominates and controls his life, even controls him psychologically and emotionally. He is viewed as a monster by his wife and others. He cannot possibly establish a normal life or love-based marriage until he is demoted. Despite all, there is still a humane part in Leo which appears in his hallucination after Anatoly’s execution:
Leo walked towards him, wiping away the condensation. It was Mikhail Sviatoslavich Zinoviev, a bullet through his head, his jaw smashed, his head battered. Leo stepped back, turned around. The room was now completely empty except for two young girls–Zinoviev’s daughters, dressed in filthy rags. Orphans, their stomachs were swollen, their skin blistered. Lice crawled across their clothes, their eyebrows and in amongst their matted black hair. Leo closed his eyes and shook his head (153).
Leo’s personality apparently is a mix of three things: disguised kindness in the form of cruelty, extreme intelligence in leading and investigating, and complete ignorance in life and love relationships.
Raisa is a strong willed, smart, and beautiful woman who can be considered the number one survivor in the novel. Moreover, if Leo portrays the authority mentality, Raisa represents the people’s. For being a teacher, Raisa represents a certain category of people: artists. Under Stalin, there established what is now known as personality cult. It refers to painting, writing novels and poems that only glorify Stalin. Consequently. Some artists and authors committed suicide due to depression, as they preferred to die rather than do what the state order them. Thus, Raisa despises and fights the regime through the character of Leo “I used to spit in your tea.” (243) She also could defend herself against Dr. Zarubin, who has wanted to force her to sleep with him. When he brings her oranges and lemons when she brought her oranges and lemons, “a luxury in a city of food shortages” (91), , “she refused to cry.” (88) She falls for everything and everyone that is against the state, which leads to her losing her carefulness. Naomi Repace, the lead Raisa in the movie child 44, says in an on set interview that “Raisa is a strong character. She decides when transferred with Leo to not lie, to not pretend any more. She would rather die than living this lie anymore.”
Andrei is the most mentally disturbed character in the novel. He is psychologically based on Andrei Chikatilo, the Rostov Ripper. Both Andreis have murdered and cannibalized many children. Chikatilo said in an interview before his execution that “when I used my knife, it brought me psychological relief” (498). Chikatilo killed with brutality, he would take out his victims eyes, rape them, and chew their organs. Moreover, he felt huge excitement when he lured his victims into the woods “I would start to shake. It was like a fever.” (498) such thing is similar between him and Andrei “he was so excited he wanted to pee.” (183) another point of similarity is targeting children more than any other kind of people. Perhaps since both of them have been severely abused during childhood, so they felt more powerful over them. They also hate their looks; Daniel Boduszek and Rebecca Robinson said in their article A Psycho-dynamic Behaviourist Investigation of Russian Sexual Serial Killer Andrei Chikatilo that they see themselves as freaks, “that is why Chikatilo takes his victims eyes before raping them” (502). However, smith has changed the mentality of his Andrei a little bit:
Andrei Chikatilo discovered that other people’s pain gave him intense pleasure. That is very interior, private motivation: one that is easily unfathomable, indescribable….therefore, there is a risk they would seem flat, a device, a mere monster, rather than a real person (298).
He has created him with the possibility of his brother being alive. He puts part of this same mentality in some other different circumstances. More importantly, he gives him “a warped logic to his crimes, that allows us to get a little closer to him.” (298) that has created, somehow, a more humane Andrei whom the reader might understand, even sympathize with. Smith redefines the psychohistory of Andrei Chikatilo into a mere child who “whenever he missed his father, which was often, he would deal the cards out on the floor, sorting them by suits and numbers. He was sure if he could just finish the pack then his father would come back” (10).
Concerning the language of the novel, it is very simple and expressive. It is eloquent but not classic. Moreover, it is gloomy to represent the setting. The most frequent words are “cruelty”, “barbarity”, “murder”, and “the Gulags”. Regarding the ending, it is an open ending that has the possibility of writing a sequel. However, new life is given to both Leo and Raisa. Perhaps Smith lets the ending open to elaborate that it is never over in the Soviet Union, for more troubles and misery will always take place.
In conclusion, Historiography is the study of the way history has been and is written—the history of historical writing. It looks through the different interpretations of the past. Moreover, historiography narrates the past events rather than enlisting facts. Psychohistory is concerned with applying psychology to history. It studies why people behaved in such ways, their motives and mentalities. It also essentially interpretive rather than narrative. In other words, psychohistory’s main concern is the way of history, why people tend to behave in that way, their stated intention and actual behaviour.
Therefore, Child 44 looks psychologically through its characters. It attempts to interpret and explain the Stalinist psychology. It tackles the themes of family relationships, visions of Russian and violence, power and patriotism, and survival and fear through employing the techniques of irony, foreshadowing, flashback, and illusions.
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