Living in a fairytale

Is what the citizens of City of the Sun say they want to do. Convinced of the power of optimism and positive thinking, like Voltaire’s doctor Pangloss they want to believe that everything is for the best in the best of all possible worlds.

But since they are not fools and cannot deny that in fact this world is not the best one possible, they have fled their misfortunes and retired to their little corner of Siberia to make the best of it, like Candide, by cultivating their gardens.

photo by Stanislav Krupar

They bring up their children like the flowers of the field, theoretically innocent of greedy capitalism, war and conflict, suspicion and fear. No one tells the children never to accept sweets from strangers, because in the single family there are no strangers. At school they study the history of art and culture, not battles and revolutions. Reading Tolstoy’s War and Peace they [pan]gloss over Pierre’s descriptions of legs being blown off, and focus instead on Natasha’s feelings of love, explains Volodya, the Mountain’s de facto PR manager.

Well, wouldn’t we all like our children to experience only peace and harmony? But I don’t think PEACE (and a Tiny Bit of War), by Lev Tolstoy, would be a masterpiece of world literature. And when believers say they want to live in a fairy tale, I can only assume they mean the sanitised, Disney version.

The children of City of the Sun are a joy; open and friendly, interested and interesting. But they are not, in the surrounding villages at least, believers in Vissarion. They seem to be well-rounded, healthy human beings, undamaged by the decline and fall of communism that brought most of their parents here seeking to fill a spiritual void, or by the relentless positivism of the single family.

The first generation has already gone away to study in the nearest towns and cities. Their parents hope and expect they will return to the land of fairy tale.  I think they’re more likely to return (if they return at all) to pleasant, orderly, clean-ish villages, cultured enough, well-off enough (and maybe that’s enough of a miracle in Russia), but no longer isolated from the world’s harmful influences, definitely not the best of all possible worlds.


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