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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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... public statement which would have been expected from the other novel. Stichomythia run wild, Vladimir Sorokin’s The Queue consists solely of one-line exchanges between members of a queue – the longest in Moscow – which, some two thousand strong, winds its way up and down the alleys and streets of a suburban district in pursuit of some ...

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 ...

Keep squeezing

Sam Sacks: Ma Jian, 26 September 2013

The Dark Road 
by Ma Jian, translated by Flora Drew.
Chatto, 360 pp., £16.99, April 2013, 978 0 7011 8753 8
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... life itself.’ Broadly in the vein of works by Eastern Bloc dissidents like Josef Skvorecky and Vladimir Voinovich, it tells of a man who’s found success as a professional blood donor and a three-legged dog that sententiously lectures humans on their bestial behaviour, among other absurd figures. Because its arguments tend to be veiled behind ...

Aphrodite bends over Stalin

John Lloyd, 4 April 1996

... of employment, designed in part to cut the huge cost of the theatrical army. The business manager, Vladimir Kokonin, defeated him in a fashion unthinkable in Soviet times. ‘People are going to have to start justifying their salaries,’ Kokonin announced. ‘We don’t want time-serving civil service types.’ Grigorovich has gone with dignity: not so Oleg ...

Off the record

John Bayley, 19 September 1985

Life and Fate 
by Vasily Grossman, translated by Robert Chandler.
Collins, 880 pp., £15, September 1985, 0 00 261454 5
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... have an Alice in Wonderland attitude about their own longevity. The Soviet émigré writer Vladimir Voinovich, who managed twenty years after its completion to get a copy to the West, observed that Suslov’s remark was at least a tribute to the novel’s lasting importance. Grossman was isolated, not arrested. He continued to write, and the short ...

Good Day, Comrade Shtrum

John Lanchester: Vasily Grossman’s Masterpiece, 18 October 2007

Life and Fate 
by Vasily Grossman, translated by Robert Chandler.
Vintage, 864 pp., £9.99, October 2006, 0 09 950616 5
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... made by Andrei Sakharov and Yelena Bonner, and the microfilm was smuggled to the West in 1970 by Vladimir Voinovich. (It must have been a bit like Celebrity Dissident Pass-the-Parcel.) In 1980 the book was published for the first time; in 1985, Robert Chandler’s fine English translation came out, and in 1988 Zhizn i Sudba was published in Russia. Its ...

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