Punishment

Dan Jacobson

  • Final Judgment: My Life as a Soviet Defence Lawyer by Dina Kaminskaya, translated by Michael Glenny
    Harvill, 364 pp, £12.95, August 1983, ISBN 0 00 262811 2
  • Memoirs by Petro Grigorenko, translated by Thomas Whitney
    Harvill, 462 pp, £15.00, April 1983, ISBN 0 00 272276 3
  • Notes of a Revolutionary by Andrei Amalrik
    Weidenfeld, 343 pp, £12.50, July 1983, ISBN 0 297 77905 2

Three autobiographical books by three Soviet dissidents who are as unlike one another in character, background and way of life as it is possible to be. The first of the authors is a solemn, Jewish lady-lawyer; the second an irascible Red Army general; the third (until his death recently in a car crash) was a contumacious bohemian of vagrant habits and wide-ranging intellectual interests. One of the many things that make their books so depressing to read, however, is that the same incidents and people recur in all three of them: indeed, each of the authors appears in the others’ books, though not always by name. Thus, quite unintentionally and inadvertently, they reveal just how small was the society of dissidents, and how limited in number were the protests they managed to mount, even in the great days of the ‘Movement’, in the late Sixties and early Seventies.

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