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Letter From Russia

The protagonist of a novel I’m now writing speaks in the voice of George Orwell, except that he uses the manly, tobacco-and-gin accents of reason, detachment, and persuasion to discuss love, rather than politics.  The novel is called Earthly Love, and it will be the ninth book I’ve written, which is a painful thing to recount as only five of them have seen the light of day.

When, in 1993, a work of autobiography I had written under the title The Gingerbread Race: A Life in the Closing World Once Called Free was published in England, to some enthusiastic notices from a press then still residually highbrow and still sensible to the heritage of the Cold War, it would have pleased me to no end to hear that its thesis was an echo of the closing pages of Orwell’s Animal Farm.  But although the critics said many flattering things, some of them interesting, none was to draw this particular parallel.

As for myself, of course, I had read both Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four while still a teenager in Russia.  Once in the West, I went on to devour Orwell’s essays and other writings, without, however, rereading the two masterworks, of which by then I remembered only the basic outlines of the plot, with the result that, in 1993, I did not make the connection between the thesis of The Gingerbread Race and that particular prophecy of Orwell’s...

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