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Vladimir Voinovich, Author , trans. from the Russian by Andrew Bromfield. Knopf $25 (384p) ISBN 978-0-375-41235-6

Voinovich is a self-consciously Gogolian writer, whose first novels, published during the 1970s, spiced the sometimes self-important prose (and posing) of the dissidents with a very earthy humor. His latest novel, which tells the story of Aglaya Stepanovna Revkina, the most ardent Stalinist ever produced by the provincial town of Dolgov, stands dissidence on its head. Aglaya, after accruing power while the iron man was alive, is expelled from the Party after 1956. Aglaya may be a narrow, fanatical Stalinist, but she is, perversely, admirable, too, especially in comparison with her conformist comrades. Through the first three-fourths of the novel, Voinovich is wonderfully deft at balancing the grotesque and the realistic. His central symbol is a frighteningly lifelike statue of Stalin that Aglaya rescues from the junk heap and installs in her apartment. In the last quarter of the novel, Voinovich takes us rapidly through the last three ages of "Terror," ending on a very sour note with: "Terror Unlimited (the present time)." State repression has been replaced with hoodlum disorder in Dolgov, and the Party headquarters with a casino/strip joint. In spite of the somewhat unsatisfactory finale, Voinovich's novel is otherwise a fine study of the peculiar buffoonery of Soviet life, with its fearful conformities, petty dissidents and its decadent final decades, which Voinovich very justly terms "somnambulistic." Agent, Georges Borchardt. (July 20)

Reviewed on: 05/24/2004
Release date: 07/01/2004
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 361 pages - 978-1-58567-811-2
Open Ebook - 325 pages - 978-0-307-42693-2
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