Roland Merullo A Russian Requiem: A Novel

ISBN 13: 9780316567893

A Russian Requiem: A Novel

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9780316567893: A Russian Requiem: A Novel
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Two weeks before the right-wing coup attempt that split the Soviet Union, two men--one American, one Soviet--struggle with the personal and political crises brought on by perestroika

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From the Author:

From the Author's Introduction to the Second Edition:
 
It is a pleasure to be able to add something here for the second edition of A Russian Requiem. So much has changed in the eighteen years since this novel first saw the light of day. When my wife Amanda and I and our daughters returned to Moscow recently, as guests of Ambassador John Beyrle, it was almost nothing like the city I first saw in 1977. The streets were choked with traffic, there were advertisements everywhere, an abundance of good eating places, skyscrapers, golf courses. And yet, beneath this disguise of modernity we still encountered an ancient Russian generosity and straightforwardness, the same qualities that had endeared us to that country when we worked there on USIA cultural exhibitions. 
 
So much has changed in the world, too, but the human urge toward freedom and happiness - really the heart and soul of this story - can be seen clearly in today's uprisings in the Middle East. Tyranny persists, in various forms, and the fight against tyranny persists, too. But human life is not only about how we are governed: whatever the political system in which they live, individuals still must work out the puzzle of their own existence. I first came to know the former Soviet Union during a period of terrible oppression, and then, with Amanda, during another period where that oppressive air was beginning to dissipate. It was a remarkable lesson - getting to see the best and worst of humanity at such an early age, gaining an understanding of the mindset of the autocrats and the pain of their victims, those who instill fear and those who sacrifice their own well being to combat it, those who preserve their moral integrity, and those who sacrifice it on the altar of power or material comfort. These lessons have marked both of us forever, as have the friendships we made in the U.S.S.R. I tried to put all of that into A Russian Requiem, all my own pain and fear and love and longing. The novel is very personal in that way, and has always been close to my heart.

From Kirkus Reviews:

After his lyrical literary debut (Leaving Losapas, 1991), Merullo ventures into more commercial territory--in a highbrow thriller set during Russia's 1991 ``undeclared civil war.'' Based on an intimate knowledge of the Soviet Union, Merullo's timely and intriguing narrative juxtaposes the careers of two bureaucrats--both decent, ordinary men who find themselves acting heroically after years of mistakes and compromises. Approaching 50, Anton Czesich, an American descended partly from Russian immigrants, has followed a safe course as a diplomat in the information services. But his personal life's a mess--a failed marriage, and a gay son who hates him. His latest assignment (to oversee food-relief efforts in the ``Stalinist backwater'' of Vostok) reunites him with his former lover, a fellow diplomat stationed in Moscow. But the State Department, afraid of becoming too embroiled in Russia's internal affairs, throws a wrench into the works and postpones the food delivery. Czesich takes things into his own hands, hoping to bring off ``the command performance in a career of consummate bullshitting.'' In Vostok without authorization, Czesich eventually joins with Sergei Propenko, a midlevel Party functionary who's being used as a pawn between Moscow's Yeltsinites and local Party loyalists, who are disgusted with the notion of US aid. Where Czesich hopes to fulfill some vague 60's-ish pledge to change the world, Propenko acts bravely to restore himself in his family's eyes. His daughter, Lydia, is a follower of the radical priest Father Alexei, who leads local strikes against the Party. Things play themselves out with intensity and credibility, culminating in an act of stunning heroism. A moving novel--with great cinematic potential--that brilliantly captures the historically tense moment of Russia on the verge of freedom, just before the attempted coup and the Party's last gasps. -- Copyright ©1993, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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