opinions & ViewsnThe Soul of a Fast WriternHoward Fast: The Immigrants;nHoughton Mifflin Company; Boston.nby Otto J. ScottnH oward Fast is back on the bestnseller lists. The jacket blurb of ThenImmigrants describes it as “the story ofnthree California families in the course ofnthe twentieth century.” Another namenfrom the pro-Communist Thirties—nLouis Untermeyer—adds his blessing tonthe offering. “More penetrating thannmost novels,” says Untermeyer in italics,n”it presents a sweeping vision of anwidening America among the aliens whonbecome the builders of a nation . . .”nThat sounds both strange and familiar.nHow can aliens be also California families?nAnd isn’t the twentieth century anlittle late to build a nation here.^ However,nto be strange and yet familiar is only partnof the oddness of the work of HowardnFast, and Untermeyer’s plug is—perhapsnaccidentally—apt. For Howard Fast’snentire career is familiar, but very strange.nVirtually exempt from serious criticismnthroughout his long and prolific efforts,nFast is unique in having enjoyed the bestnof opposing worlds. He has the oddndistinction of having been hailed innMoscow, New York and Hollywood, ofnreceiving the Stalin Peace Prize and ofnwatching Kirk Douglas star in Spartacus,na movie based on one of Fast’s historicalndistortions.nFor many years no “progressive” librarynin the United States was without ancopy of Citizen Tom Paine —a Fastnportrayal of the 18th century revolutionarynas a twentieth-century apparatchiknin crazy clothes. During those same yearsnthe State Publishing Houses of thenvast totalitarian empire managed fromnMr Scott, a native New Yorker, publishednbiographies of James I and Robespierre,nand now writes from San in6nChronicles of Culturenthe Kremlin made Fast’s work mandatorynhigh school reading east of thenBerlin Wall.nThe special nature of that treatmentnbecomes startling when contrasted withnthe fates of other writers, other works,nin the last thirty-odd years. For Fastnbecame popular with totalitarians afternthey had determined that writing is anpolitical and cultural weapon. Theynmined the libraries of the West for suitablenmaterial, and the USSR lifted aloftnJack London and his Socialist tracts. ButnLondon was dead before Lenin’s slavencamps were created, and Howard Fastnarose, with works the commissars considerednideal, long after death camps werenspread across the landscape.nFast was far from alone, of course, innserving the commissars. Writers of top,nmiddle and low rank flocked toward thenprizes, the flattering press, the fame thatnaccrued to those who extolled the greatnIn March, 1978—22 weeks on thenNew York Times Book Review BestnSellers list.nSoviet experiment. Virtually all whonserved, however, met tragic fates. Thenhandful of geniuses at the top, alwaysndifficult, met the most-publicized falls.nPasternak, briefly in favor, turned againstnthe Soviet state, fell from grace and endednhis life in despair. Orwell grew rebelliousnand was rejected by his British comrades,nwho disdain his work to this day. EzranPound broadcast for the Fascists, wasnincarcerated and lost his voice. OssipnMandelstam spent his last years as anbeggar and died in the manner of annanimal denied shelter, in the snowsnof Siberia.nJurgen Ruble, in a fascinating thoughndepressing work, traced the ends of anlarge array of European and Soviet writersnin a book called Literature & Revolutionnthat deserves to be taught as a universityncourse. And though the earlier work ofnnnmany of the writers Ruble traces is stillnextant, the fates of their authors arenseldom discussed. Howard Fast’s careernis, of course, unfinished, and his name isnnot among those whom Ruble examined.nBut that omission is natural enough fromnanother viewpoint: Ruble wrote aboutnserious artists, and the name of HowardnFast has never been linked to any significantnliterary trend, nor with genuinenart. He is, we are told, an entertainer.nBut the commissars are shrewd, and theynare not noted for wasting money onnentertainments. Even fairy tales arenscreened for ideological content beforenbeing approved by the State publishingnhouses. Therefore, their assessment ofnthe usefulness of Fast’s work should bentaken seriously.nirl oward Fast’s appearance on our bestsellernlists should also give rise to somenexamination, for these compilations havenlong aroused grave suspicion. It has beennrepeatedly proven that best-seller listsnoften ignore books that people actuallynbuy, in favor of books that are packagednin advance and placed on the lists tonpromote ~- rather than reflect — sales,nwith an eye toward later movie distribution.nIn effect, expert observers nownconsider the best-seller lists manipulatedn— if not invented—by a small elite ofnshrewd operators with good publishingnand Hollywood connections. In that sensenHoward Fast’s appearances on best-sellernlists are as much triumphs with an elitenas his successes east of the Berlin Wall.nFew authors have achieved such andouble-jointed triumph in such disparatencultures, but Howard Fast has done itntime and again. What is his secret.-‘ Thenanswer to that lies between the lines ofnhis work, for despite common myth, anwriter cannot really fake his essence. Allnof his writing reflects his soul, no matternwhat his official opinions or public poses.nAnd it is the soul of Howard Fast thatnevokes an answering echo in the breastsnof the commissars of Moscow—andn