RUSSIA: A Long-Shot Romance by Jo Durden-Smith

RUSSIA: A Long-Shot Romance

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KIRKUS REVIEW

From British journalist and filmmaker Jo Durden-Smith (Who Killed George Jackson?, 1976), a warm and perceptive memoir of his love affair with Russia and with the woman he married, which began with a casual visit in 1988 to a country he considered ""a black hole on the edge of Europe."" Russia under Gorbachev was changing, acquiring the trappings of a civil society, and Durden-Smith, who admits that he came ""along for the ride"" with two friends, soon found himself in love. In love with Russia, ""its dreams and passions, its struggles with history, its monumental search for a memory, its intensity of feeling."" On this first visit, he met ""the Russian Bob Dylan,"" Boris Grebenshchikov. Interested in making a movie of this underground rock star, he flew to Leningrad, to meet this ""chameleonic and sort of medieval Russian Clark Kent,"" who lived on the top floor of an abandoned building. How the liberalization changed Boris, who became rich and famous after the movie was made, and how he now lives in the US, where he judges television music competitions, is symbolic of what happened to Russian society as it emerged from the protective constraints of communism. Unprepared for capitalism and let down by the West, Russia, laments Durden-Smith, is now run by the Mafia and the ""new swash-buckling nomenklatura."" As well as offering closely observed portraits of the Russians he came to know, he tells the story of his other romance: his falling in love with, and eventual marriage to, Yelena, a media executive, mother of a teenaged daughter, and herself the daughter of an old Stalinist. Confessing to be ""hooked,"" he currently lives in Russia, a place that unlike the West, he says, ""is still alive with future possibility."" A moving love letter to a country, a people, and a woman, as well as a remarkable record of Russian private life in the midst of yet another revolution.

Pub Date: April 24th, 1994
Page count: 336pp
Publisher: Knopf