Andrea Lee spent ten months in Russia in 1978-9, together with her husband, on an academic exchange – eight months at Moscow State University and two at Leningrad State. Her Russian Journal, some of it written during her stay, some of it worked up subsequently, consists of thirty or forty fragments, each encapsulating an incident, an experience or a character. The entries are chronologically ordered: there is little theorising and no thesis. Andrea Lee likens them to ‘a set of photographs taken by an amateur who is drawn to his subject by instinct and capricious inclination’. This unpretentiousness is one of the great strengths of her book. She obviously has no interest in selecting or distorting evidence to make out a case.
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