This novel, unpublished in the Soviet Union, first appeared in Germany in 1971; the forty-two-year-old author bids fair to join the ranks of Solzhenitsyn, because he too is a usable religious anti-Communist, and because he is a powerful writer. The book follows three Lashkov brothers from their decrepit old age back to their struggles especially during non-combatant involvement in World War II. Andrei and Pyotr have been conscientious commissars and decent fellows on the railway and in a spectacular cattle drive respectively. They end up weeping for their lost lives and grasping at the ""mysterious and ennobling"" higher questions. With women as creatures of passion and old age as frantically degraded and Christianity as the truth to be regained, it is all quite Dostoievskian, and the novel is spattered with little set speeches and set characters (""Lot of good it was, your ancestors starting all that commotion just for a change of overseers""). Except for two symbols of Stalinism -- a cowardly contemporary official and an evil Luftmensch controlling a local party during the Civil War -- the book lacks the concrete grasp of the apparatus that makes Solzhenitsyn so fascinating. ""They"" remain ""they."" Why the good Lashkovs became Communists in the first place is never clear. But their pride seems to he the key, and after their descendants fall apart they find themselves drinking vodka in a public lavatory. All this is to stress the tendentious and unsatisfying character of the novel as tract. But its Russianness, however self-acclaimed, is compelling -- the unromanticized yet romanticized peasants, the ""impotent rage,"" the elaborate and convincing and indirect play on the Russian fear of ""the menacing uncertainties of the outside world.