In “The Dead Wander in the Desert,” we see the final, painful days of the Soviet Union, juxtaposed with the final, painful days of the Aral Sea, as a once-bountiful land dries up and turns to a poisonous, salt-filled desert. The characters in the book fight to preserve the sea, but in vain: the central […]
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The Monastery Zakhar Prilepin “Humanity is dark and terrifying, but the world is human and warm.” So ends Zakhar Prilepin’s massive historical novel “The Monastery” (Обитель), about the Solovki monastery-turned-prison-camp, the seed of the GULAG system. Following the fortunes of Artyom Goryainov, a prisoner in the camp, the novel charts all the aspects of prison […]
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Everyone Loses: The Ukraine Crisis and the Ruinous Contest for Post-Soviet Eurasia Samuel Charap and Timothy J. Colton When protest and then war broke out in 2013/14 in Ukraine, many people in the US couldn’t find Ukraine, much less the Crimea or the Donbass, on a map, and for most people that’s probably still the […]
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Capsoul Alex Krasnov If you like numerology, this is the book for you. A mixture of science, science fiction, fantasy, and mysticism based on numerology, “Capsoul” is the story of a group of emigres from the former USSR to the US and Canada who design a project to create a kind of “immortality machine” that […]
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What can I say about Politkovskaya that I haven’t already said? Maybe that this book, written specifically for publication abroad, is perhaps the most foreigner-friendly of her works. Unlike “A Dirty War,” which is a compilation of her early articles on the second Chechen war, or later books such as “A Russian Diary,” which are […]
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When teaching a survey class of Russian literature, one of the more vexing questions is which text to pick. You want to give students an idea of the breadth and richness of Russian literature, but not overwhelm them with impossible page counts. Of course they SHOULD read “And Quiet Flows the Don,” “Life and Fate,” […]
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In “Wolf Hunt,” the threads of village passions come together as a group sets off on a wolf hunt that serves as a pretext for something even more murderous. Living side-by-side for decades, right through the upheavals of WWII and forced collectivization, has inflamed resentments rather than drawing people together, leading to a violent denouement. […]
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Of Our Own Device Cold Warriors rejoice! A major fix for your addiction has arrived! Okay, I’m being tongue in cheek, but “Of Our Own Device” has pretty much everything readers longing for a hit of classic Cold War spy fiction could want. Plus a bunch more. It’s a big, sprawling book covering the Gorbachev […]
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Monumental Propaganda Aglaya (“The Shining One”) Revkina (“The Zealous One”) may have never had an orgasm, but she does know what love is. All the passion her skinny body is capable of has been dedicated her entire life to Comrade Stalin. It’s unfortunate that the rest of the world is incapable of matching her ardor. […]
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This is something I just found out about, started by Tynga’s Reviews. You get to list books you’ve acquired with the intention of reading. Gulp! I try not to think too hard about my TBR list, but actually at the moment it’s not too bad. So here are some books I’m planning to read soon, or […]
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