Not by Bread Alone

Not by Bread Alone
Cover of the first edition of Not by Bread Alone

Not by Bread Alone (Russian: "Не хлебом единым") is a 1956 novel by the Soviet author Vladimir Dudintsev. The novel, published in installments in the journal Novy Mir, was a sensation in the USSR. The tale of an engineer who is opposed by bureaucrats in seeking to implement his invention came to be a literary symbol of the Khrushchev Thaw.


Plot summary

Late in the Stalin era, a teacher of physics, Dimitri Lopatkin, invents a machine which revolutionizes the centrifugal casting of pipes, then a difficult and time-consuming operation. Lopatkin, a loyal communist, believes his invention will help the Soviet economy if it is used. Despite the virtue of the machine, it is rejected by bureaucrats. When Lopatkin gets a chance to have a demonstration model built at a Moscow institute, his opponents favor a rival machine, and then cancel Lopatkin's. Lopatkin is offered a chance to work on his machine for the military, which he accepts, but is soon arrested and accused of passing secrets to his lover, Nadia Drozdov, the estranged wife of one of the officials who opposes him.

At trial, Lopatkin asks what secrets he is accused of betraying, and he is told by the judges that he is not allowed to know that, the identity of the secrets is itself secret. One of the judges, a young major named Badyin, sees the absurdity of the proceedings and defends Lopatkin. Nonetheless, the inventor is convicted and sentenced to eight years in a labor camp, with Badyin announcing he will write a dissenting opinion. While Lopatkin gains permission to have his papers turned over to Nadia, the papers are believed to be destroyed.

A year and a half later, Lopatkin's case is reviewed, and he is released and returns. He finds that Nadia has been able to obtain his papers, that the designers who built the demonstration model have been able to replicate it, and that his machine is in operation in a factory in the Urals. An investigation is ordered into the officials who blocked Lopatkin, but they get off lightly and are later promoted.

Lopatkin is now a respected inventor, earning a fine living. The officials, who form an invisible web that frustrate the individualists, suggest that he should buy a car, a television, or a dacha, and by implication become like them, but Lopatkin says, no, he will continue to fight them: "Man lives not by bread alone, if he is honest." Lopatkin realizes he will spend his life fighting the bureaucrats.

Public reception

The public gave the novel a overwhelming reception. The issues of Novy Mir containing the novel sold out within hours. Subscribers to the journal were besieged with demand for their copies. Readers waited months to be allowed to borrow a copy from a library.[1] The laws of supply and demand took over in the Soviet Union, and copies could be obtained on the secondary market for five times the cover price.[2] At a time when intense reaction to a literary work would last not more than a couple of months, Novy Mir received hundreds of letters, the flood continuing as late as 1960.[3] One enthusiastic response came from a KGB office in Latvia.[4] One schoolteacher from Byelorussia wrote to the author,

At last, literature has begun talking about our painful problems, about something that hurts and has become, unfortunately, a typical phenomenon of our life! At last a writer has appeared who saw predatory beasts enter our life, rally together, and stand like a wall in the way of everything honest, advanced, and beautiful![4]

Official reaction and aftermath

Initially, official reaction, as expressed in Pravda and other periodicals, reflected reserved praise for Dudintsev's book. Toward the end of 1956, official organs began to attack the author and his book. However, this did not change the position of the readers, who continued to praise the novel, and compared its detractors to the less savory characters in it.[5]

Communist Party First Secretary Nikita Khrushchev praised the powerful imagery of some of the pages, but stated that the novel was "false at its base".[6] Khrushchev also complained that Dudintsev had "biasedly scissored out negative facts for tendentious presentation from an unfriendly angle."[7] Others joined in: Dudintsev was accused of vilifying Soviet society and his book of being a social evil. His works rapidly became untouchable, and he sank into poverty.[8] Not by Bread Alone was reprinted in the 1960s, after Khrushchev's fall, but this was seen as more a way of denigrating the former leader than honoring the author.[8] The book was published in English in 1957, and The New York Times praised it for its insights into Soviet life.[7]

While the book was republished in 1968, 1979, and again during perestroika, it did not again spark such a reaction. Readers viewed Not by Bread Alone as obsolete once more explicit books about the terror, such as Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, were published. One reader wrote to Solzhenitsyn, "We still have fresh memories of the attacks on V. Dudintsev for his Not by Bread Alone—which, compared to your story, is merely a children's fairy tale."[9]

2005 movie

In 2005 Mosfilm director Stanislav Govorukhin released the movie, Not by Bread Alone based on the novel. The advertisement campaign for the movie coincided with the 2005 State Duma by-elections there, and Govorukhin was a candidate from the governing United Russia party. His main opponent, writer Victor Shenderovich, complained that the advertisements for the film constituted illegal political advertisements for Govorukhin, but the complaints were not accepted by the court.


  1. ^ Kozlov 2006, p. 80.
  2. ^ Whitney, Thomas (1957-03-24), "The novel that upsets the Kremlin", The New York Times,, retrieved 2009-09-09  (fee for article)
  3. ^ Kozlov 2006, p. 82.
  4. ^ a b Kozlov 2006, p. 83.
  5. ^ Kozlov 2006, pp. 87–88.
  6. ^ Taubman 2003, p. 308.
  7. ^ a b Burger, Nash (1957-10-21), "Books of the Times", The New York Times,, retrieved 2009-09-09  (fee for article)
  8. ^ a b Wines, Michael (1998-07-30), "Vladimir Dudintsev, 79, dies; writer dissected Soviet life", The New York Times,, retrieved 2009-09-09  (fee for article)
  9. ^ Kozlov 2006, pp. 93–94.


External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • man cannot live by bread alone — With allusion to two biblical passages (both AV): DEUTERONOMY viii. 3 Man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord doth man live; MATTHEW iv. 4 Man shall not live by bread alone. 1875 EMERSON in… …   Proverbs new dictionary

  • man does not live by bread alone — Meaning Origin From the Bible. Matthew 4:4. But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. Luke 4:4. And Jesus answered him, saying, It is written, That man… …   Meaning and origin of phrases

  • man shall not live on bread alone — people need many different things in order to have a good and healthy life …   English contemporary dictionary

  • man shall not live by bread alone — не хлебом единым жив человек …   Idioms and examples

  • Alone — A*lone , a. [All + one. OE. al one all allone, AS. [=a]n one, alone. See {All}, {One}, {Lone}.] 1. Quite by one s self; apart from, or exclusive of, others; single; solitary; applied to a person or thing. [1913 Webster] Alone on a wide, wide sea …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • alone, only — Alone has several meanings ( separate, apart, isolated, unique ), as in such expressions as all alone and Man shall not live by bread alone. Only means without others, solely, exclusively. Alone and only can be synonymous. One may say She worked… …   Dictionary of problem words and expressions

  • alone — aloneness, n. /euh lohn /, adj. (used predicatively) 1. separate, apart, or isolated from others: I want to be alone. 2. to the exclusion of all others or all else: One cannot live by bread alone. 3. unique; unequaled; unexcelled: He is alone… …   Universalium

  • alone — /əˈloʊn / (say uh lohn) adjective (used in the predicate or placed after the noun) 1. apart from another or others: to be alone. 2. to the exclusion of all others or all else: man shall not live by bread alone. 3. Obsolete unique. –adverb 4.… …   Australian English dictionary

  • BREAD — (Heb. לֶחֶם, leḥem), a baked commodity from a cereal flour. The primary sense of leḥem is food in general (Gen. 37:25; Num. 28:2; I Kings 5:2; etc.). The Ugaritic lḥm has the same general sense and the same particular sense, while the Arabic… …   Encyclopedia of Judaism

  • not to mention — adverb much less (Freq. 2) she can t boil potatoes, let alone cook a meal • Syn: ↑let alone * * * IN ADDITION TO, as well as; not counting, not including, to say nothing of, aside from, besides. → …   Useful english dictionary

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