European Diary

Genetic Roulette

Once, a long time ago, when, as a result of one of those complex misunderstandings that cast long shadows over the course of my life, I was getting married in a small town in Connecticut, my father showed up at the church stuffed with promotional literature.  This consisted of leaflets describing his new organization, donation forms, photocopies of articles in the press—in short, everything that anyone who has ever come near political activism in the United States would find painfully familiar.  It was meant to be what they call a big wedding, and my father did not want to miss the chance to work over a large audience of potential supporters.  Moments before the ceremony, my best man stood him against a wall, frisked him, and confiscated all his literature, a procedure to which he submitted peaceably, though with a yellowish glint in his eyes.  Hidden in the trunk of my mother’s car was a fresh load.

Next scene, London.  Whenever we used to run into each other at parties, the writer Taki would always call out to me across a crowded room: “Navrozov, but are you a serious person?”  This was in memory of an afternoon he once spent in conversation with my father, some 30 years ago in New York, not long after we had arrived from Moscow.  Taki was moonlighting for the CIA, and that day’s assignment was to debrief my father.  They strolled back and forth in front of the...

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