From ‘The Yawning Heights’

(The following passage is translated from the opening section of Aleksandr Zinoviev’s The Yawning Heights.)

The School Building

The building of the Ibanskian school for military pilots, IVASP, is universally believed to be the most beautiful and majestic in the whole Ibansk housing development. Stamps depicting it can be seen even in countries of Latin America and Black Africa. It was built from a former, half ruined manor house, from an unfinished detached house erected by a merchant, and from a synogogue. Completed not long before the war, it has since acquired a firm position among the treasures of our national architecture. More than five hundred high officials, commanding officers, and visiting writers were awarded prizes for the part they played in its construction, and Comrade Ibanov himself received two awards (one for vetoing the project, the other for authorizing it). When the bourgeois avant-garde architect Le Corbusier viewed the building in person he declared that there was nothing left for him to do in the Soviet Union, and took off for home. The leading art historian Ibanov, in his article on “Why I Am Not a Modernist,” commented that this was just where he belonged.

The unusual feature of the IVASP school building is that it has two façades, one in front, the main one, and the other in back, a spare. The façades are constructed in a number of different styles, so that foreign tourists and visitors, and even the older inhabitants of the development, still consider them different buildings. This was the reason why before the war the Development Authority assigned the building to two organizations at the same time, the Air Club and the Meat and Milk Combine. This dual assignment brought on conflicts and feuding. The officials of each organization put together a file on the other, and both groups were arrested. Soon the raw material gave out for one of the feuding organizations, and so the conflict was resolved in perfect correspondence with the dialectic. The philosopher Ibanov, in his book Unity and the Struggle of Opposites in the Ibansk Development and Its Surroundings, commented on this situation as a typical illustration of the fact that with us, unlike those abroad, contradictions do not turn into antagonisms, but are resolved simply by being surmounted.

If you stand facing the main façade of IVASP, with your back toward the main channel of Ibanyuchka Creek and the proposed hydroelectric station, you will grasp at once how right Director Ibanov was when he declared at the building’s dedication ceremony that in just such beautiful palaces the entire working class would some day dwell in the recently proclaimed coming of a brighter future. The building’s façade is adorned with nine hundred columns representing every order known to world architecture. The innumerable towers on the roof stream aloft to the heavens and seem to form a unity with them, precisely reproducing the inimitable cupolas of the Church of St. Iban the Blessed. Stirred by all this beauty the world-famous…

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