The "Reds" in John Wyndham's Literary Works

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The “Reds”
The Soviet threat

The Cold War was a (mostly) peaceful conflict lasting from 1947 to 1990, “fought” between two superpowers, each supporting their own ideology; in the West, there were the United States of America with its capitalism, while in the East the USSR (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics) lurked with its communism. Having started soon after the Second World War, and ending with the fall of the Berlin wall in 1990, the Cold War spanned 43 years.

Coinciding with this “war” was John Wyndham`s career of being a writer of full-fledged literature. In those days, every news outlet ranging from television to radio broadcast, from printed media like newspapers to simple word-of-mouth, reported the latest antics of the two ideological blocks. The East was impregnating its citizens with the idea that communism, or socialism in general, was a valid and effect way of ruling a country, and ranted about how evil and corrupted the capitalists were, who in turn were warning everyone who wanted to listen about the dangers hidden behind the iron curtain. While the Cuban Missile Crisis was perhaps the most famous aspect of this timeframe, conflicts like the Korean War (started in 1953, and is currently in a state of cease fire) and the war in Vietnam kept the world on the brink of a nuclear holocaust.

In these eventful days, Wyndham, like most other well-known writers of his time, resided in the West, living and writing with little of the restrictions that were imposed in the USSR. As such, it was almost inevitable that the ever-present Cold War would seep into both the fiction and non-fiction written in the time.

Arguably the most famous example is George Orwell`s 1984, a story that mocked just about every aspect of the USSR. In later generations the book was better remembered for its love story and dark portrayal of life in a country ruled with an iron fist, rather than the political message Orwell, a socialist himself, tried to convey, namely that Stalin (the then leader of the Soviet Union) was being far to radical with the implementation of communism in Russia and the other USSR-members.

But 1984 wasn`t the only book to be affected and/or inspired by the Cold War; Wyndham`s literary works, with the exception of The Chyrsalids, contained a fair share of criticism directed at the USSR as well. And even the aforementioned odd one out of Wyndham`s books implied that the Soviets had ruined the world by triggering a nuclear holocaust, thousands of years prior to the book’s events.

Though Wyndham never elaborated on what his position in the political spectrum was, both his apparent dislike of the Russians seen in The Day of The Triffids, The Kraken Wakes, and The Midwich Cuckoos, as well as the portrayal of the socialist political parties in Britain in Trouble with Lichen seemed to imply that he was a man with a conservative nature.

In this chapter, the various points of criticism levied at the Soviets by Wyndham will be described and analyzed, to try and create a synopsis of how Wyndham viewed the largest communist state to have ever existed, and to reveal how integral the roles of the Russian in the books were.

The Day of The Triffids

While the book featured quite a smaller amount of lectures and speeches than, say, The Midwich Cuckoos, Wyndham did insinuate that the origin of the Triffids (the book’s monster of the week) was within the borders of the Soviet Union;

Fedor`s story was that he had been employed in the first experimental Triffid station in the district of Elovsk in Kamchatka. There, a fellow employee going by the name of Tovarich Nikolai Alexandrovich Baltinoff made him an offer, backed by several thousand Russian Roubles.

All Fedor has to do was remove a box of sorted fertile Triffid seeds from its rack and substitute a similar box of infertile seeds. The purloined box was left at a certain place at a certain time. Furthermore, he had to see to it that a pattern of...
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