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Panin, who now lives in France, was a model for the character Sologdin in Solzhenitsyn's First Circle. Here he protests that he was no ladies' man, no careerist, and no devotee of wood-chopping. What he certainly was (and still is) is a frantic opponent of the Russian revolution; as a child, he loathed the unpleasant ""mobs"" and ""Communist enslavement"" by Lenin's ""bandit gangs,"" and he and his adored mother roundly despised his father for failing to fight the Bolsheviks. Thus Panin's rather Oedlpal world involved nostalgia for the warm, safe days of the czar; then came the Bolsheviks and ""meat pies made with human flesh were sold in the marketplace."" Panin kept looking for ways to overthrow the government and proudly describes how he made no secret of his views, with the result that his outrage seems misplaced when he is arrested at age 28, in 1940, under the catchall law on crimes against the state. Neither the descriptions of camp experiences nor the silhouettes of fellow prisoners stand up to the inevitable comparison with Solzhenitsyn. Whether he's outsmarting the Cheka, securing a cosier work situation, sabotaging a scientific invention, or, in the end, leading a prison strike, fellow camp inmates are foils for Panin to hang his prejudices on. His candor continues, however: ""Hitler's promise of a war against Stalin gave the hope, strength and patience we needed for enduring a terrible existence while we awaited the hour of our opportunity."" Panin's religious commitment doesn't go beyond rhetorical nods to the idea of universality; he is a classic White emigre, not a ""dissenter,"" and while he writes with less frenzy than a Lev Navrozov (The Education of Lev Navrozov, p. 430), his hysteria is unmistakable.

Pub Date: Feb. 16th, 1975
Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich