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Molotov's Magic Lantern

Travels in Russian History

Rachel Polonsky

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Description

When the British journalist Rachel Polonsky moves to Moscow, she discovers an apartment on Romanov Street that was once home to the Soviet elite. One of the most infamous neighbors was the ruthless apparatchik Vyacheslav Molotov, a henchman for Stalin who was a participant in the collectivizations and the Great Purge--and also an ardent bibliophile. In what was formerly Molotov's apartment, Polonsky uncovers an extensive library and an old magic lantern--two things that lead her on an extraordinary journey throughout Russia and ultimately renew her vision of the country and its people.

In Molotov's Magic Lantern, Polonsky visits the haunted cities and vivid landscapes of the books from Molotov's library: works by Chekhov, Dostoevsky, Pushkin, Akhmatova, and others, some of whom were sent to the Gulag by the very man who collected their books. With exceptional insight and beautiful prose, Polonsky writes about the longings and aspirations of these Russian writers and others in the course of her travels from the Arctic to Siberia and from the forests around Moscow to the vast steppes. A singular homage to Russian history and culture, Molotov's Magic Lantern evokes the spirit of the great artists and the haunted past of a country ravaged by war, famine, and totalitarianism.

Publishers Weekly Review

Nov 22, 2010 – When she moves to Moscow, British journalist Polonsky discovers that the former apartment of Vyacheslav Molotov, Stalin's most loyal henchman, is right above hers. Purely by coincidence, she is conducted into Molotov's apartment and discovers, among other objects, much of the former leader's library, some of it crumbling to dust, and an old magic lantern. Like faded images waiting for the light of this antique slide projector, Russian history and the Russian present reveal themselves in glimpses, like figures rising out of the dark, to Polonsky. In this sometimes entertaining and sometimes dreary book of travels, Polonsky uses the rotting pages of the books in Molotov's library as a guide, sometimes tracing lines that lead to places of exile, quest, or crime. In her travels, Polonsky goes to Lake Ilmen, where Christianity challenged many pagan deities, as well as to the towns where Chekhov and Dostoyevski wrote their most famous works. Part memoir, part travelogue, and part literary history, Polonsky's reminiscences bring to life both the familiar and the obscure in Russian history and literature, and raise indirectly the question of how Molotov, with his deep love and apparent appreciation of literature, could be responsible for his role in the execution of so many writers during the 1930s purges.
Molotov's Magic Lantern
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  • $9.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Travel & Adventure
  • Published: Jan 11, 2011
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Seller: Macmillan / Holtzbrinck Publishers, LLC
  • Print Length: 250 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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