This novel is neither a study in “morals,” nor a picture of the standard of life in Soviet Russia. It is a purely psychological study of sex-relations in the post-war period.
I have chosen the environment of my own country and made my own people protagonists, for I know them better and could give a more vivid picture of their inner life and characters. Many of the problems presented are not exclusively Soviet-Russian; they are world-wide facts, which can be noted in all countries. These silent psychological dramas, born of the change in the sexual relations; this evolution, especially, in the feelings of women, are well known to the younger generation of Europe.
Do we ever judge a man for his conduct in love-affairs? Generally, if he does not overstep certain, very flexible limits, we say that his sexual life is his own “private affair.” The character of a man is evaluated not by his conduct in family morals, but by his efficiency in work, by his intellect, his will, his usefulness to the State and Society. As long as the majority of women had no direct duties to the State or to Society, as long as their whole activity was concentrated within the family limits, civilized nations demanded no other qualities in woman than that she display “good morals” in sexual and family life.
Now, when more than half of the grown-up women-citizens in most countries toil and struggle, just as the men do, Society puts new demands on the women. Their ability to respond to the social duties of a citizen begins to have more value than their “goodness” and “stainlessness” in family-morals. Family life is not the unique field of activity for women nowadays; often enough her family duties come into bitter conflict with her out-of-home work and her public duties. It is only natural, therefore, that the method of evaluating a woman today is different from that of our grandfathers and grandmothers.
Though a woman may, at the present time, attain “perfection” in the current bourgeois standard of family morals, and be “esteemed” by her own people, she may neither receive the real appreciation of society nor the “respect” of the State. She will merely be “overlooked.” On the contrary: a woman may not be “spotless” from the point of view of current bourgeois sex morals, but if she is an outstanding figure in politics, art, science, etc., one will not even “whisper” about her behind her back. Were one to put into the balance two women: one with “good morals,” but who never did any useful work for the country or humanity, and the other, whose “family morals” are not free from criticism, but who is an efficient public worker – there would be no doubt about the choice.
Our criteria in sex morals are always changing. There is never a standstill. There are merely periods in human history when the evolution of morals goes on more rapidly; other periods (with a general stagnation in all fields of life) when change seems to relax. Only half a century ago Dumas-fils wrote of a “divorcee” as of a “fallen” creature, while today France openly discusses the question of equalizing the rights of non-legal mothers with those of legally married women. There remains less and less of the old bourgeois hypocrisy in our way of thinking and judging of sex morals.
I do hope that this book will aid in combating the old, bourgeois hypocrisy in moral values and show once more that we are beginning to respect woman, not for her “good morals,” but for her efficiency, for her ingenuity with respect to her duties toward her class, her country and humanity as a whole.
Mexico City, March 10th, 1927