AGE OF DELIRIUM by David Satter


The Decline and Fall of the Soviet Union
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 Reluctant to relinquish America's Cold War mentality, a veteran journalist revives our image of the Soviet Union as the evil empire we loved to hate. At a time when most works on Russia and the Soviet Union are concentrating on contemporaneous events, Satter (who has reported for the Wall Street Journal and other publications) offers a throwback to earlier journalistic accounts of life in the Soviet Union. With the exception of some confusing chapters on political turmoil in the early '90s, this is a string of brief sketches of Soviet citizens who fought the totalitarian Soviet state during its final decades. Included among those whose largely tragic stories Satter recounts are striking miners, factory workers, collective- farm workers, unsuccessful border crossers, KGB targets, psychiatric prisoners, and Ukrainian activists. Particularly harrowing are the ``truth seekers,'' Soviet citizens who travel repeatedly to Moscow in search of justice from the central authorities. The chapter devoted to their stories is one of Satter's strongest; he devotes greater effort and space to developing the character of these wretched souls caught in a kafkaesque quest for truth. Despite many fascinating accounts of dissidents, both Satter's style and his stories suffer from the vehemence of his anti-Soviet polemic. The prose becomes flat and pedantic when he stops to lecture about the evils of Marxist- Leninist ideology, replacing the impressive and harrowing portraits of doomed individuals found elsewhere in the book with heavyhanded denunciations of a rotten Soviet regime that ``used force to create illusions'' after the predicted fairy-tale communism was not realized. Typical of Satter's tone are his final remarks about the ugly scene at a Soviet cafÇ: ``It is hard to avoid the impression that if labor created man out of an animal, it was the achievement of communism to have changed him back again.'' A passionate, often sanctimonious denunciation of the Soviet Union that dwells more on the past than the future.

Pub Date: June 4th, 1996
ISBN: 0-394-52934-0
Page count: 416pp
Publisher: Knopf
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 1996


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