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Here comes the end of the world

Michael Hofmann, 23 July 1992

Bohin Manor 
by Tadeusz Konwicki, translated by Richard Lourie.
Faber, 240 pp., £12.99, July 1992, 0 571 14437 3
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... have by Konwicki. The first of these four books is The Polish Complex (1977 – the translation by Richard Lourie in 1982), the first of Konwicki’s books to be banned by the authorities in Poland; later on, he graduated to being banned by the Underground. Its basic situation is less extreme than that of A Minor Apocalypse, but just as dramatic and ...

White Nights

Penelope Fitzgerald, 11 October 1990

In the beginning 
by Irina Ratushinskaya, translated by Alyona Kojevnikov.
Hodder, 320 pp., £14.95, March 1990, 9780340416983
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Goodnight 
by Abram Tertz (Andrei Sinyavsky), translated and introduced by Richard Lourie.
Viking, 364 pp., £14.99, April 1990, 0 670 80165 8
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Comrade Princess: Memoirs of an Aristocrat in Modern Russia 
by Ekaterina Meshcherskaya.
Doubleday, 228 pp., £12.95, February 1990, 0 385 26910 2
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... is perhaps the last of his judgments on himself. This is said to be an autobiographical novel, and Richard Lourie, in his introduction, calls it ‘the culmination of everything he has so far written’, but it strikes me more as an elegy, a jazz elegy in five movements, of which three are very much more important than the others. Like ...

Chonkin’s Vicissitudes

Graham Hough, 1 October 1981

Pretender to the Throne: The Further Adventures of Private Ivan Chonkin 
by Vladimir Voinovich, translated by Richard Lourie.
Cape, 358 pp., £7.95, September 1981, 9780224019668
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The Temptation of Eileen Hughes 
by Brian Moore.
Cape, 224 pp., £6.50, October 1981, 0 224 01936 8
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Silver’s City 
by Maurice Leitch.
Secker, 181 pp., £6.95, September 1981, 0 436 24413 6
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The Christmas Tree 
by Jennifer Johnston.
Hamish Hamilton, 167 pp., £6.50, September 1981, 0 241 10673 7
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... Vladimir Voinovich’s Pretender to the Throne is a continuation of The Life and Extraordinary Adventures of Private Ivan Chonkin,* and most of what has been said about the earlier book is equally true of this one. Equally untrue too. A comic novel about wartime Russia, a comic novel about Stalinism, is on the face of it such a contradiction in terms that the attempt to describe it keeps tripping up on misleading descriptions and false analogies ...

Sasha, Stalin and the Gorbachovshchina

T.J. Binyon, 15 September 1988

Children of the Arbat 
by Anatoli Rybakov, translated by Harold Shukman.
Hutchinson, 688 pp., £12.95, August 1988, 0 09 173742 7
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Pushkin House 
by Andrei Bitov, translated by Susan Brownsberger.
Weidenfeld, 371 pp., £12.95, May 1988, 0 297 79316 0
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The Queue 
by Vladimir Sorokin, translated by Sally Laird.
Readers International, 198 pp., £9.95, May 1988, 9780930523442
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Moscow 2042 
by Vladimir Voinovich, translated by Richard Lourie.
Cape, 424 pp., £11.95, April 1988, 0 224 02532 5
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The Mushroom-Picker 
by Zinovy Zinik, translated by Michael Glenny.
Heinemann, 282 pp., £11.95, January 1988, 0 434 89735 3
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Chekago 
by Natalya Lowndes.
Hodder, 384 pp., £12.95, January 1988, 0 340 41060 4
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... On returning from Munich to St Petersburg in the spring of 1837, the poet Tyutchev, as well known for his wit as for his verse, told a friend that he was suffering not so much from Heimweh as Herausweh; and, a little later, hearing that D’Anthès, Pushkin’s opponent in the fatal duel earlier that year, had been sentenced for his part in the affair to perpetual banishment from Russia, seized the opportunity for a mot by announcing that he would immediately go off and kill Zhukovsky – then, after Pushkin, the most famous poet in Russia ...

Tunnel Visions

Philip Horne, 4 August 1988

The Tunnel 
by Ernesto Sabato, translated by Margaret Sayers Peden.
Cape, 138 pp., £10.95, June 1988, 0 224 02578 3
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Pilgrims Way 
by Abdulrazak Gurnah.
Cape, 232 pp., £11.95, June 1988, 0 224 02562 7
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States of Emergency 
by André Brink.
Faber, 248 pp., £9.95, May 1988, 0 571 15118 3
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Moonrise, Moonset 
by Tadeusz Konwicki, translated by Richard Lourie.
Faber, 344 pp., £11.95, May 1988, 0 571 13609 5
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... like this.’ But the paradoxical gusto and linguistic inventiveness of the writing (judging by Richard Lourie’s confident translation), and its rapid and always disconcerting shuffling of tones (lyrical, affectionate, snide, farcical, grumpy, bitter), manage to prevent our feeling as with André Brink that postures are being adopted in careful ...

Patriotic Work

M.F. Perutz, 27 September 1990

Memoirs 
by Andrei Sakharov, translated by Richard Lourie.
Hutchinson, 776 pp., £19.99, July 1990, 0 09 174636 1
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... This book betrays two very different Sakharovs who hardly seem to have communicated with each other. The first was the cold-blooded inventor of the Russian hydrogen bombs; the second was the fearless leader of the Russian intelligentsia’s struggle for human rights. For twenty years, from 1948 until his dismissal in 1968, Sakharov masterminded the scientific groundwork for the development and perfection of ever more lethal atomic weapons, blindly and obsessively absorbed in work that he describes as a theoretician’s paradise ...

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