cover image The Russian Affair

The Russian Affair

Michael Wallner, trans. from the German by John Cullen, Doubleday/Nan Talese, $25.95 (352p) ISBN 978-0-385-53239-6

Wallner's beautifully crafted if sometimes slow-moving evocation of 1970s Russia focuses on the struggles of 27-year-old Anna Tsazukhina, a house painter who lives in a small Moscow apartment with her famous poet father, Viktor Tsazukhin; her frail son, Petya; and her army officer husband, Leonid, though he's often on active duty far away. As she attempts to find food for her family and medicine for her son, she dreams of acquiring better living quarters. Once Anna begins an affair with Alexey Bulyagkov, a high government official, her everyday live becomes easier, but—this being Soviet-era Russia—she must pay a price. A KGB colonel recruits her to spy on Alexey and report on their affair. Wallner (April in Paris) ratchets up the suspense as he slowly peels away the layers of deceit. Patient readers willing to forgo flat-out action will be rewarded. (Apr.)