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19 September 2018


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The Whisperers

by Orlando Figes

The Whisperers is history as seen across the kitchen table through a standard, 50 mm lens. Whereas much of the history of the Stalin era is writ large, swimming in the Gulag’s sea of death and destruction, defined by war, purges and diplomacy, here Figes writes about Russian life on a smaller, more human scale. Tracing the lives of seven or so families from the 1917 revolution forward, this is not unlike a Ken Burns documentary in prose. Mined from memoirs and personal interviews, The Whisperers is intimate and deeply textured, particularly in its biography of the main character, the writer Konstantin Simonov, whose life was Molotov-esque in its reflection of the warped Russian reality of the 20th century.

— Paul E. Richardson

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Reviewed in Russian Life: Nov/Dec 2007