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Alas! A great book…

L'hirondelle avant l'orage - Robert Littell

Why “Alas!”? Because I wish this was just a simple fiction, and an unrealistic one at that. Because what it describes is terrible: through the disappearance of one of the greatest Russian poets of the 20th century, Osip Mandelstam, the book gives a vivid picture of Stalin’s Great Purge and, although parts of the book is fiction, most of it is real (based, I presume, on the recollection of Nadezhda Mandelstam, Osip’s wife) or could be real. So… alas!, because these facts did happen, they affected millions of people not even such a long time ago, it is not only an imaginary story…


This is not the first book I read on Soviet history, but is certainly one of the best.


(I read this book in French, but it is the translation of the English original, published under the title “The Stalin Epigram”.)