This is deeply moving, exquisitely told story. There is not one wasted dab of paint in this masterpiece. I bought it in the hope of listening to something entertaining for long drives, and now I must have a hard copy of this book so that I can see this work executed on the page.
The Stalin Epigram is not a light entertainment - it's a profoundly imagined, zen-like work of a complex, flourishing mind. It succeeds on every level, from the description of the smallest detail through the development of the mundane ironies that spiral out of control to govern the lives of the characters. Every character is so beautifully delineated and examined. The pacing, the journeys that characters take in their own minds and through their fears and loves, is all first-rate. They live in a world in which one is tortured, humiliated and murdered for the tiniest, only imagined, offenses against the state. And that is in the best of times. As the Bolshevik revolution approaches the end of the 30s, absolute power has corrupted absolutely. Imagining how that feels, and what it looks like, and conveying the moods, the fears, the beats and moments of all of that to a western audience is a major accomplishment. And at the heart of this is a pure story of genuine love and sharing.
I reserve five stars for books that I would expect always, from now on, to come to mind as an especially rewarding work. The Stalin Epigram is one of them. I'm anxious now to see if any of Mr. Littell's earlier works approach the power and scope of this superb novel.
Also, the readings by John Lee and Anne Flosnik are flawless.
Bravo to Mr. Littell for this book and everyone involved with this wonderful recording.
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