THE EDUCATION OF LEV NAVROZOV: A Life In the Closed World Once Called Russia by Lev Navrozov

THE EDUCATION OF LEV NAVROZOV: A Life In the Closed World Once Called Russia

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Navrozov is a recent Russian emigre to the United States; the manuscript was composed in the Soviet Union. Robert Massie, author of Nicholas and Alexandra, says of the book, ""It is as if Proust had somehow blended with Orwell."" One might equally say that it is as if the pre-World War I Russian surrealist Biely's staccato prose had blended with a back file of Chicago Tribune stories on the Iron Curtain. Navrozov's topic is ""the entire machine-universe with its machine-like humans, human-like machines, and dead skies. . . started and impelled by its pseudotsar-god."" There is something convincing and powerful about the historical delvings of Solzhenitsyn and Roy Medvedev, because they energetically confront their sources--mendacious official ones and valuable unofficial ones previously lost to the Soviet population--and because they draw upon their own adult experience. Navrozov does neither; he certainly submits no basis for believing that the USSR set up a ""Free Love Office,"" or that the Bolsheviks ""massacred all who were more prosperous or educated""--canards that no scholar, however anti-Communist, has perpetuated beyond 1920. Navrozov also amasses pages of lamentations for which there is much ground about graft and poverty and forced labor, but nothing new or perceptive for Western audiences. He then goes on to commend the ""free market"" system at a time when Western spokesmen are epidemically discussing economic crisis. The book does inspire the fascination of most Russian memoirs in the interspersed passages describing Navrozov's childhood in Moscow--his mother was a spirited physician of Jewish mercantile descent, and his father a drunken litterateur with magical leather-bound volumes of Shakespeare. But the nostalgia is no more satisfying to the reader than the repetition of refugee rhetoric.

Pub Date: June 4th, 1975
Publisher: Harper's Magazine Press