A Russian Requiem

Overview

Two weeks before the failed right-wing coup of August 1991, Anton Czesich, an American in his late forties who has spent a mostly disillusioning career working overseas for the U.S. government, arrives in Moscow to take charge of a volatile American food distribution program-a program administered by Julie Stirvin, the love of his youth. She and Czesich have their own history, their own protracted cold war. Many miles away, in the mining center of Vostok, Soviet bureaucrat Serghei Propenko, a former champion ...
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A Russian Requiem

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Overview

Two weeks before the failed right-wing coup of August 1991, Anton Czesich, an American in his late forties who has spent a mostly disillusioning career working overseas for the U.S. government, arrives in Moscow to take charge of a volatile American food distribution program-a program administered by Julie Stirvin, the love of his youth. She and Czesich have their own history, their own protracted cold war. Many miles away, in the mining center of Vostok, Soviet bureaucrat Serghei Propenko, a former champion boxer, is in the midst of his own midlife crisis-partly personal, partly political. Modest and decent, surrounded by a household of strong-willed and politically astute women, Propenko is pinched between his traditional ambitions and concern for his very untraditional daughter, Lydia. As Czesich's and Propenko's fates intersect, it becomes clear that both men are partially paralyzed by the same suspicions and fears that crippled Soviet-American relations for so long.

A Russian Requiem is a page-turner with depth, a finely crafted novel about the small piece of history each of us bears and the way our intimate lives reflect and echo in the politics of nations. Speckled with humor and irony, rich in both psychological and political drama, it carries the reader on a post-cold war voyage through the Russian-and American-soul.

"I can't help but draw parallels between [Merullo's] take on the last days of the USSR and the contemporary changing of the guard we are fortunate to be witnessing in North Africa...Taking his cue from Graham Greene, Merullo crafts a political thriller with a profound moral compass, chronicling a former Soviet apparatchik's conflicted emotions as he decides between the safety of his position and the real hopes of freedom he has for his country." Tony D'Souza

"Merullo skillfully explores the lives of ordinary people caught in a dramatic transference of power...it is smoothly written and multifaceted, solidly depicting the isolation and poverty of a city far removed from Moscow and insightfully exploring the psyches of individuals caught in the conflicts between their ideals and their careers." -Publishers Weekly

In August 1991--two weeks before the right-wing coup attempt that split the Soviet Union apart--two men from different hemispheres attempt to cope with the chaos wrought by perestroika. When their worlds explode in turmoil, each is forced to confront crisis, betrayal, and danger.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Against the backdrop of the failed August 1991 putsch that led to the collapse of the Soviet Union and to the ascendency of Boris Yeltsin's Russian Republic, Merullo skillfully explores the lives of ordinary people caught in a dramatic transference of power. Two weeks before the attempted coup, middle-aged American diplomat Anton Czesich flies to the provincial city of Yostok to coordinate a Western hunger relief program. Jaded and cynical about politics, Czesich remains a hopeless romantic when it comes to personal honor; he ignores embassy directives to put the project on hold because of the unstable political situation and hooks up with his Russian counterpart in the relief effort, Sergei Propenko, who is unaware of the change in the U.S. position. The narrative segues between the men's troubled personal lives and political reality; they are tested by a riot over food distribution and an attack by Communist hardliners on Propenko's reform-minded daughter. While the novel never quite captures the excitement and turbulence of the stormy days that ended Soviet power (or the delightful quirkiness of Merullo's first book, Leaving Losapas ), it is smoothly written and multifaceted, solidly depicting the isolation and poverty of a city far removed from Moscow and insightfully exploring the psyches of individuals caught in the conflicts between their ideals and their careers. ( Sept. )
Kirkus Reviews
Based on an intimate knowledge of the Soviet Union, Merullo's timely and intriguing narrative juxtaposes the careers of two bureaucrats--both decent, ordinary men who find themselves acting heroically after years of mistakes and compromises. …A moving novel--with great cinematic potential--that brilliantly captures the historically tense moment of Russia on the verge of freedom, just before the attempted coup and the Party's last gasps.
Publishers Weekly
Merullo skillfully explores the lives of ordinary people caught in a dramatic transference of power…it is smoothly written and multifaceted, solidly depicting the isolation and poverty of a city far removed from Moscow and insightfully exploring the psyches of individuals caught in the conflicts between their ideals and their careers.
Howard Frank Mosher
In its gritty authenticity, its keen political and historical savvy, its heartfelt grasp of a human and national tragedy, and most of all its splendid characters, A Russian Requiem is one of the best novels I’ve read in years.”
Joe McGinniss
The scope, power, and magnitude of this book amazed me... Merullo's understanding of the Russian soul goes far beyond that of any other American author I've ever read. If I were to pick the one book this reminds me of more than any other, it would The Quiet American, the Graham Greene novel... But in many ways I think A Russian Requiem is better
Craig Nova
A Russian Requiem has the brilliance that only comes when a gifted storyteller has had substantial experience with his subject. It is a remarkable book... beautifully written, filled with large characters clearly rendered. –
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780983313939
  • Publisher: PFP Publishing
  • Publication date: 3/1/2011
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 438
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.97 (d)

Meet the Author

Roland Merullo is the author of twelve books, including In Revere, In Those Days, a Booklist Editors’ Choice, and Breakfast with Buddha, nominated for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. His new novel, The Talk-Funny Girl will be published in spring 2011. He lives in western Massachusetts with his wife and two daughters. For more information, visit www.rolandmerullo.com
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