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In a Spa Town

James Wood: ‘A Hero of Our Time’, 11 February 2010

A Hero of Our Time 
by Mikhail Lermontov, translated by Natasha Randall.
Penguin, 174 pp., £8.99, August 2009, 978 0 14 310563 3
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... the loch’s transfixing deeps. A good thing he didn’t know anything about the resident monster. Mikhail Lermontov’s novel, A Hero of Our Time, which first appeared in 1839, opens in a situation and a landscape not very different from Samuel Johnson’s. A narrator is travelling through the Caucasus; he explains that he is not a novelist, but a travel ...

Big Man Walking

Neal Ascherson: Gorbachev’s Dispensation, 14 December 2017

Gorbachev: His Life and Times 
by William Taubman.
Simon and Schuster, 880 pp., £25, September 2017, 978 1 4711 4796 8
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... unpredictably, without fear. The voice – strong, lively – belonged to the man in the chair, Mikhail Gorbachev. I remember leaning back against the window, my heart suddenly too big for my chest. So it was real. So this democracy was actually taking place, at the core of the empire, and a whole planet – rusted to its axis for generations – was ...


Misha Glenny, 9 May 1996

Black Sea 
by Neal Ascherson.
Cape, 306 pp., £17.99, July 1995, 0 224 04102 9
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... had taken power in Moscow. Ascherson immediately understood that he had witnessed the arrest of Mikhail Gorbachev, who was spending his summer vacation in his Crimean dacha. Back in Moscow, he followed the heroic defence of the White House by Yeltsin’s supporters and the consequent defeat of the coup. This is not a history of the Black Sea, as Ascherson ...


Michael Wood: Oblomov, 6 August 2009

by Ivan Goncharov, translated by Marian Schwartz.
Seven Stories, 553 pp., £15.99, January 2009, 978 1 58322 840 1
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... are better, in many cases, than what we call work and achievement. In which cases? The novelist Mikhail Shishkin says in an afterword that this is ‘the Russian paradox: if you want to live a worthy life, you’d best not get off the sofa at all.’ Oblomov, Shishkin says, is a ‘vital, dear and unlucky man’ and morally much to be preferred, the ...

Russia’s Managed Democracy

Perry Anderson: Why Putin?, 25 January 2007

... translator of classical Japanese, Grigory Chkartashvili, inspired – he avows – by Griboedov, Lermontov, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky; his hero combines traits of Chatsky, Pechorin, Andrei Bolkonski and Prince Myshkin, with a touch of James Bond for good measure. Coquetting in the manner of a latter-day Propp, he has set out to illustrate the 16 possible ...

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