THE RUSSIAN AFFAIR by Michael Wallner


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In Brezhnev-era Moscow, a young wife is torn between her highly placed lover and the KGB colonel who wants her to keep tabs on him.

Housepainter Anna Viktorovna leads a drab and unfulfilling existence, crammed into a tiny Moscow flat with her down-and-out dissident-poet father, her inattentive husband Leonid and their 6-year-old son Petya, until she catches the eye of a Deputy Minister named Alexey Bulyagkov during an inspection tour of the construction project she'd been working on. Alexey arranges a "chance" encounter at one of her father's readings, and soon the two become romantically involved. Unfortunately, their affair catches the eye of KGB Col. Kamarovsky, who Anna meets via her free-spirited journalist friend Rosa Khleb. Kamarovsky uses his connections to arrange for top-notch treatment for Petya's terrible allergies, as well as publication of a new volume of her father’s poetry, and in exchange asks for regular reports on Bulyagkov, and especially on the work of Nikolai Lyushin, a scientist whose project falls under the purview of Bulyagkov's ministry. As she truly has feelings for Bulyagkov, Anna is wracked with guilt, but continues to report to Kamarovsky. When she decides to terminate the affair and patch things up with her husband, currently stationed far to the east and pursuing an illicit affair of his own, she is forced to come to terms with her unreconciled feelings of guilt and duty, and in the process learns that nothing is, or ever was, as it seems. Wallner (April in Paris, 2007) expertly depicts the dreariness, paranoia and intrigue of the Soviet Union in the early 1970s, while simultaneously crafting a deep, heartfelt love story peopled by fully realized characters facing difficult situations, forced to act without a clear-cut notion of right and wrong.

Tense, evocative and moving.


Pub Date: April 12th, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-385-53239-6
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Talese/Doubleday
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 2011


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