This linoleum cut has been commissioned by the Los Angeles Times Book Review March 24th, published April 4th 2010 to complement the review of the book The Line by Olga Grushin.
“No wristbands in these queues
Queues were a conspicuous feature of the old Soviet economy and its distributive malfunctions. Long lines would form when word came that some previously unavailable item was about to go on sale. Nobody knew what it would be—gloves, boots, toothpaste—but people lined up anyway, hoping they could use whatever it was, and that it wouldn’t have run out when they got to the front.In “The Line,” Olga Grushin uses the queue as a symbol of wider nightmare aspects of life under Stalin and the 30 years, only slightly looser, between his death and the advent of Gorbachev and perestroika.
If regular existence is purposeless and without hope, the queue’s purposelessness offers a hope, however illusory, that momentarily transforms. It gives those who stand in line an unaccustomed lightness and, escaping the daily grind, a sense of freedom. And over the year, organizing themselves by number, holding a neighbor’s place to allow brief absences, quarreling or befriending each other, a community forms. Not the top-down community imposed by the system, but one that takes shape, however short-lived and fragile, from the bottom up. “Book reviewed by Richard Eder