Russia: A Long-Shot Romance

Jo Durden-Smith, Author
Jo Durden-Smith, Author Alfred A. Knopf $24 (318p) ISBN 978-0-394-58257-3
Reviewed on: 04/04/1994
Release date: 04/01/1994
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Durden-Smith is angry, so incensed that his raw emotion and loss of perspective make his contentions in these pages tedious and questionable. The West, he argues, missed the opportunity to advance Russian reform and instead has pushed the country backward to autocracy, corruption and suspicion. ``Western'' and ``democracy'' have become ``dirty'' words in Russia. Durden-Smith's perceptions follow from his avowal, ``God, how I love this place.'' A British documentary filmmaker and freelance journalist, he has dual residences in England and Russia with his Russian wife, Yelena, their toddler daughter, his mother-in-law and stepdaughter, a student at Moscow University. Durden-Smith ( Who Killed George Jackson? ) re-creates his trips to Russia under both Gorbachev and Yeltsin; he writes mawkishly and at boring length of his courtship of his wife, even to providing a graphic account of their first lovemaking. Yelena emerges as often bad-mannered not only toward Durden-Smith's colleagues but also toward him. On her first visit to London, to serve as the translator for Russian filmmakers, Yelena ``forced'' the courting author to play the role of ``a sugar daddy buying clothes for an avaricious teenager.'' To define his befuddlement over his adopted country--and presumably over his wife whom he seems to consider emblematic--Durden-Smith concludes with a metaphor: the ``Russian soul'' is akin to two strips of film running side by side but in opposition to each other. (Apr.)
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