On this day, some important guests came to the Ryabushinsky mansion, recently presented to the great proletarian writer Gorky: Joseph Stalin, Vyacheslav Molotov and Klim Voroshilov. What food and drinks were served for the guests in the memoirs wasn’t included in the memoirs, but a spiritual treat, and, most importantly, the reaction of elite visitors was preserved, reproduced many times, and is cited in every occasion.
The best friend of all writers asked the stormbringer of the revolution to read something and dictated: “For example, “The Girl and Death". “And after listening to the early work of Alexei Maksimovich, he took a book out of his hands and wrote in a sweeping and oblique manner on its last page: “This thing is stronger than Goethe's Faust. Love conquers death.” To the attention of those proofreaders who did not live in the times of the “father of nations”!
The comma is not needed in this line. The best expert in linguistics comrade Stalin missed it, and the mistake was carefully replicated. Another Stalin’s slip of pen – a “great scientist" wrote a word “love” (любовь – lyubov’) without a soft sign – was catered to for the time being. That’s how they wrote the word in pre-war school textbooks – without a soft sign – and thus created a dangerous precedent: some of the mischievous pupils made mistakes and referred to Comrade Stalin. In the second edition of Great Soviet
Encyclopedia (volume 12, article “Gorky”) “lyubov’” was finally written properly, with a soft sign. Where did this soft sign come from? There is a story. An employee of the Gorky Museum put it down with her trembling hand when the book with the most august inscription was put on display. Nowadays, some are inclined to believe that the leader was drunk and put on airs. Skeptics are refuted by the master of socialist realism A. Yar-Kravchenko, who dedicated the picture “A.M. Gorky reads his fairy tale “The Girl and Death” to J.V. Stalin, V. M. Molotov and K.E. Voroshilov on October 11, 1931" to this party –with the tea being the only drink in the picture.
But then only the lazy ones did not scoff at the phrase itself – from an unknown author of a joke about the dissertation on the topic “A ‘thing’ as a literary genre” to Leonid Gaidai, who put the line “This thing is stronger than Goethe’s phallus” into his movie Weather Is Good on Deribasovskaya... Having read Stalin's review, Osip Mandelstam instantly realized that the time for jokes was over. He said to his wife: “We are done.”