FROM LENIN TO LENNON by David Gurevich


A Memoir of Russia in the Sixties
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 A Russian-American playwright, essayist, and novelist (Travels with Dubinsky and Clive, 1987) looks back on his small- town upbringing and big-city education in post-Stalin Russia. This is an unusual autobiography for a Soviet ÇmigrÇ: The author never did time in a labor camp or psychiatric hospital, and when he applied for an exit visa in 1974, the Soviets seemed glad to let him go with no strings attached. While a life story like Gurevich's seldom gets into print, it is in fact more typical of the 1970's wave of immigrants than widely known stories like Solzhenitsyn's. The son of a Jewish air force colonel, Gurevich was given a relatively privileged upbringing in the Russian heartland and became fluent enough in English to attend an elite Moscow institute for future diplomats. A mildly rebellious student involved in rock music and foreign movies, he was eventually informed that the Party didn't trust him to travel abroad. He then applied to emigrate to the West, where he has since become a successful writer. Here, Gurevich dwells on a number of themes familiar to the age of glasnost: the dreariness of life in the Soviet sticks, the stupor-inducing Communist school system, and the culture of poverty that differs from our own ghettos only in its lack of ubiquitous firearms. Some readers will identify with the author's youthful alienation, preoccupation with rock music, and urge to see the world, but Gurevich's powers of observation are impressive only when he's looking at himself; even at 20 years' distance, his perspective on less fortunate friends, relatives, and teachers is remarkably compassionless. This book is appearing about five years too late; while capably written, it's unlikely to inspire uncommitted Russophiles or to inform the committed of anything they haven't already read elsewhere.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1991
ISBN: 0-15-149825-3
Publisher: Harcourt
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 1991