Publishers Weekly - Publisher's WeeklyIn this sequel to his international bestseller Children of the Arbat , Rybakov picks up the story of Sasha Pankratov and his friends from Moscow's fashionable Arbat district as Josef Stalin launches the reign of terror that saw millions of Soviet citizens arrested, exiled or shot for counterrevolutionary activities. Exiled to Siberia in the previous novel for writing satirical verse in a student newspaper and now forbidden to return to Moscow, Sasha migrates to a provincial town where he finds work as a driver. Back on Arbat Street, his friends Varya, Nina, Yuri, Yadim, Lena and Vika grapple with the moral dilemma posed by the purges: should they remain silent and tacitly acquiesce, or participate in hopes of personal gain? Rybakov brilliantly segues from this cross-section of the Moscow intelligentsia to a chilling interior monologue in which Stalin plots the destruction of high-ranking members of his inner circle. Rybakov's complex, fascinating, repellent and utterly convincing psychological portrait of a demagogue ranks among his finest achievements here, which also include the fruitful further development of the intriguing personalities established in Children of the Arbat . This dynamic, sweeping saga of ``Stalin's children,'' the first truly Soviet generation, captures the fluidity and confusion of the purge years, serving as a powerful testament to their legacy of fear. ( Sept. )
Library JournalHow could the wholesale murder, torture, and forced starvation of the Stalin years have been allowed? Fear , the second novel in a trilogy that began with Children of the Arbat (Little, Brown, 1988), attempts to explain. Written over 20 years ago, the ``Arbat Trilogy'' only recently saw publication in Russian; this is the first English translation. Fear tells the story of life under Stalin's dictatorship from the viewpoint of Sasha Pankratov, an exiled former student. Here, Sasha returns from Siberia, affording the reader a rare look at life in exile and the traveling conditions in Stalin's Russia. Sasha's mother and friends, who live in the Arbat section of Moscow, form the second strand of the novel. The third major character is Stalin himself. Each layer of the novel helps to illustrate how deception, power, and terror can extirpate honor and replace it with madness. Highly recommended for all collections of historical fiction. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 10/1/91.-- Ruth M. Ross, Olympic Coll. Lib., Bremerton, Wash.
Gilbert TaylorThe "Yezhovshchina" of the late 1930s lives on as more than an unpleasant Russian memory. It was a hell on earth, the Communist Holocaust. Absolutely no one, including the dread dictator, was free from terror, suspicion, and isolation. Pity Stalin? A perverse thought, but as the one who cranked the meat grinder, his paranoiac fears reverberated down the line into the souls of his remotest subjects, exemplified by the antagonists and characters Rybakov introduced in "Children of the Arbat". This sequel opens in 1935, with 26-year-old Sasha Pankratov returning from a term of Siberian exile. But it is unsafe to linger even briefly in Moscow, where his mother and girlfriend, Varya, have been carrying the torch for him. Better to survive, keep one's head down until the firestorm of denunciations, arrests, and executions dampens down. The psychosis behind the purges, steadily building to some dread paroxysm, reveals itself though the author's chilling skill at getting inside every character's head and connecting each with a diabolical Great Chain of Being: scenes of Stalin brooding and laying plots; the interrogations carried out by Sasha's acquaintance Sharok, now an ambitious climber in the NKVD secret police; and finally, each person's jittery worry that yesterday's innocent remark is today's capital offense. The theme of utter loneliness culminates in the wrenching scene of Varya bending toward suicidal despair as she tends her parents' grave, seemingly forsaken by friends, family, God, and her beloved Sasha. It is the forlorn epitome of totalitarian atomization. Whatever redemption Rybakov has in mind awaits the conclusion of his Arbat trilogy, but if he maintains the devastating power on display in this volume, he may make the trip to Oslo that his compatriots Pasternak and Solzhenitsyn, in another era, never could.
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