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TWENTY LETTERS TO A FRIEND by Svetlana Alliluyeva



Pub Date: Oct. 2nd, 1967
Publisher: Harper & Row

Everyone will be curious""--and Europeans currently viewing with satisfied amusement the snapshots which complement this ""family chronicle"" are the gainers from the furor surrounding its publication. The Kremlin's concern was unnecessary: there is nothing to ruffle the forthcoming anniversary of the Revolution, nothing incendiary or especially provocative (in either sense). Mrs. Alliluyeva's political philosophy as expressed here (there are no afterthoughts except for a footnote) is a benevolent one-worldliness; she is as faithful to the Old Bolsheviks as she is to the God she committed herself to in her mid-thirties. Being neither chronological nor comprehensive, this is not, despite her designation, precisely a chronicle; rather it is a confession, a purgative, in the form of testimony--to her father as a fond parent; to the natural, wholesome family life of the Party leadership before 1932; to the sensibility and wisdom of her mother; to the nobility of her grandparents, various relatives and friends. But each of them, beginning with her mother, came to a tragic end, victims of Stalin--the adult Svetlana acknowledges what the child Svetlana still cannot reconcile. The disclosures are few: the details of her father's ""difficult and terrible"" death; the depredations of her alcoholic brother Vasilly; the loathing of her family for Beria from the first. Svetlana herself has a certain interest. She describes the constrictions imposed by her position, mentions briefly a thwarted romance and her first two marriages, reports an increasing alienation from her father. And she regrets the losses justified by elevating ends over means. When this was set down--loosely, redundantly, sometimes contradictorily--the author had not come to terms with herself, with her father's role, with the system. Everyone will be curious--for a while.