A former KGB major's matter-of-fact reminiscences of service as an espionage agent in Iran. Born in Moscow two years after the end of WW II, Kuzichkin was drafted into the Red Army and eventually recruited by the KGB, given advanced training, and posted to Tehran in mid-1977. As a field operative, he worked with in-country illegals willing or forced to supply intelligence to the USSR. Despite diplomatic cover, Kuzichkin often crossed swords with SAVAK, the Shah's ruthless secret police, and later with the Ayatollah Khomeini's Revolutionary Guards. Nor was he as ease with colleagues or members of the Soviet community. For the most part, Kuzichkin found his expatriate comrades a venal and shiftless lot who evaded censure, let alone discipline, for their shortcomings on the basis of clout with the Communist Party's Central Committee. In like vein, he details the many ways in which the putatively omnipotent KGB was prone to err on its own and as the instrument of a corrupt, unprincipled government. Though increasingly disaffected, Kuzichkin soldiered on until realizing he had been set up to take a fall for some purloined documents. He crossed the Turkish border and sought asylum in the UK in mid-1982. At this remove, Kuzichkin offers an insider's enlightening perspectives on the convulsive events that marked his five-year sojourn in Iran. Cases in point range from the establishment of an Islamic republic through seizure of the US embassy, the execution of Sadegh Ghotbzadeh, the Kremlin's decision to invade Afghanistan, and the onset of the Iran-Iraq war. The author also includes an afterword that not only pays graceful tribute to Western democratic values but also excoriates the Gorbachev regime's unavailing responses to civil disturbances unleashed by glasnost and perestroika. Thought-provoking testimony from an erstwhile cold warrior who's not marching anymore.

Pub Date: April 22, 1991

ISBN: 0-679-40146-6

Page Count: -

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1991

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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.


Maya Angelou is a natural writer with an inordinate sense of life and she has written an exceptional autobiographical narrative which retrieves her first sixteen years from "the general darkness just beyond the great blinkers of childhood."

Her story is told in scenes, ineluctably moving scenes, from the time when she and her brother were sent by her fancy living parents to Stamps, Arkansas, and a grandmother who had the local Store. Displaced they were and "If growing up is painful for the Southern Black girl, being aware of her displacement is the rust on the razor that threatens the throat." But alternating with all the pain and terror (her rape at the age of eight when in St. Louis With her mother) and humiliation (a brief spell in the kitchen of a white woman who refused to remember her name) and fear (of a lynching—and the time they buried afflicted Uncle Willie under a blanket of vegetables) as well as all the unanswered and unanswerable questions, there are affirmative memories and moments: her charming brother Bailey; her own "unshakable God"; a revival meeting in a tent; her 8th grade graduation; and at the end, when she's sixteen, the birth of a baby. Times When as she says "It seemed that the peace of a day's ending was an assurance that the covenant God made with children, Negroes and the crippled was still in effect."

However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1969

ISBN: 0375507892

Page Count: 235

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1969

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