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Written in installments respectively dated 1967, 1971, 1973, and 1974, these memoirs begin with the critical and official "acceptance" of One Day In the Life of Ivan Denisovich and end with Solzheintsyn on a plane headed for West Germany, expelled. All of it is set "an octave high," to the key of never-believe-them-for-even-a-minute; and it is absolutely abrim with specifics: dates, circumstances, documents, and dialogue—qualities not surprising in an ex-zek (campprisoner) whose earliest works had to be committed to memory in full. In a Western context, the watchfulness Solzhenitsyn exhibits could even be thought of as selfish, obstinate, calculating. Khrushchev, his champion, is toppled: Solzhenitsyn admits to a certain relief—gratitude can lead to self-censorship. After the arrest of Sinyavsky and Daniel in 1965 and the theft of the manuscript of The First Circle from the magazine Now Mir's safe, Solzhenitsyn consciously goes on the offensive; the ensuing protests, statements, the decision not to go to Stockholm for the Nobel lest the government lock the door behind him—it all seems like something out of Von Clausewitz. And his readiness to score trimmers like Shostakovich, to condemn outright dissidents like the Medvedev brothers, even Sakharov, as intellectually dishonest—there is a certain tone of episcopal hauteur and dictator-ishness in this that's hard to ignore. Yet the "literary life" Solzhenitsyn lived was one he realized from the beginning had to be strategic, given the history of modern Russian letters; and nowhere in the book is this knowledge more forcefully brought home than in its most oddly "human" pages: a portrait of Alexsandr Tvardovsky, the editor of Novy Mir, alcoholic, frightened yet almost hypnotizedly brave, testing, retreating, keeping faith in his "discovery": Solzhenitsyn. Reading the manuscript of Cancer Ward ("You are a terrible man. If I ever came to power, I'd put you away"), Tvardovsky gets blind drunk, asks Solzhenitsyn to rehearse with him his (Tvardovsky's) interview with the KGB that's sure to come if he publishes this. He's a massive, ambiguous, tragic character—and all of Solzhenitsyn's Russian-novelist skills go effortlessly into his depiction. Tvardovsky's pathetic end—removed as editor of Novy Mir, the magazine shut down, a stroke, death—fully justifies the tetchy temple of facts Solzhenitsyn has erected here perhaps as a kind of memorial to him. Unsettling, but compelling.

Pub Date: May 7, 1980

ISBN: 0002721589

Page Count: 576

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1980

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This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996

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An extravaganza in Bemelmans' inimitable vein, but written almost dead pan, with sly, amusing, sometimes biting undertones, breaking through. For Bemelmans was "the man who came to cocktails". And his hostess was Lady Mendl (Elsie de Wolfe), arbiter of American decorating taste over a generation. Lady Mendl was an incredible person,- self-made in proper American tradition on the one hand, for she had been haunted by the poverty of her childhood, and the years of struggle up from its ugliness,- until she became synonymous with the exotic, exquisite, worshipper at beauty's whrine. Bemelmans draws a portrait in extremes, through apt descriptions, through hilarious anecdote, through surprisingly sympathetic and understanding bits of appreciation. The scene shifts from Hollywood to the home she loved the best in Versailles. One meets in passing a vast roster of famous figures of the international and artistic set. And always one feels Bemelmans, slightly offstage, observing, recording, commenting, illustrated.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 1955

ISBN: 0670717797

Page Count: -

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1955

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