Review: The Zone – A Prison Camp Guard’s Story by Sergei Dovlatov

“The world in which I found myself was horrifying. In that world, people fought with sharpened rasp files, ate dogs, covered their faces with tattoos and sodomized goats. In that world, people killed for a package of tea.”
~Sergei Dovlatov, The Zone: A Prison Camp Guard’s Story

Plot summary

“Written in Sergei Dovlatov’s unique voice and unmatched style, The Zone is a satirical novelization of Dovlatov’s time as a prison guard for the Soviet Army in the early 1960s.

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Review: A Russian Journal by John Steinbeck

“In Russia it is always the future that is thought of. It is the crops next year, it is the comfort that will come in ten years, it is the clothes that will be made very soon. If ever a people took its energy from hope, it is the Russian people.”
~John Steinbeck, A Russian Journal

Plot summary

“Steinbeck and Capa’s account of their journey through Cold War Russia is a classic piece of reportage and travel writing. Just after the Iron Curtain fell on Eastern Europe, Pulitzer Prize-winning author John Steinbeck and acclaimed war photographer Robert Capa ventured into the Soviet Union to report for the New York Herald Tribune.

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Review: The Captain of the Steppe by Oleg Pavlov

‘It was easy to fall into Karabas, as easy as falling down a hole, but it was hard, to put it bluntly, to get out again.’
~Oleg Pavlov, Captain of the Steppe

Plot summary

“In the beginning of this short novel, Captain Khabarov, commander of Sixth Company in Karabas, Kazakhstan, embarks on a seemingly straightforward mission: he will order his men to plant, rather than eat, their meager potato rations.

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Review: Imperium by Ryszard Kapuściński

“I thought about the terrible uselessness of suffering. Love leaves behind its creation-the next generation coming into the world; the continuation of humanity. But suffering? Such a great part of human experience, the most difficult and painful, passes leaving no trace. If one were to collect the energy of suffering emitted by the millions of people here [Magadan, Russia] and transform it into the power of creation, one could turn our planet into a flowering garden. But what would remain?”
~Ryszard Kapuściński, Imperium

Plot summary

“Now, in Imperium, Kapuściński gives us a work of equal emotional force and evocative power: a personal, brilliantly detailed exploration of the almost unfathomably complex Soviet empire in our time.

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Review: Memories of the Future by Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky

“Understanding is strictly forbidden. Even dreams have the right to dream.”
~Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky, Memories of the Future

Plot summary

“Written in Soviet Moscow in the 1920s—but considered too subversive even to show to a publisher—the seven tales included here attest to Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky’s boundless imagination, black humor, and breathtaking irony:

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