The First Ring of Hostility

Cows sacred, evil, and venal are shot by Vladimir Voinovich in this satiric look at the Soviet Union that reads like a combination "Ivan in Wonderland" and Zamiatin's WE. The hero of Moscow 2042, like Voinovich, is a Soviet émigré writer living in West Germany. Our protagonist, Vitaly Kartsev, takes a 30-day trip by airplane back to a Moscow 60 years in the future.

Upon landing at the airport he sees the familiar huge portraits of Marx, Engels, and Lenin, but a Jesus in a business suit has joined this pantheon of gods. We gradually learn that the Communist Reformed Church has taken a prominent role in the regime in return for switching to straightforward atheism—ceremonies, rituals, and religious garb are all retained.

Kartsev is given all the respect a literary "classic" deserves even though his books are not published, their titles are never mentioned, and passages are never quoted. Past and future, fiction and fact begin to blur as we learn of the intense interest the all-powerful Editorial Commission has in convincing the "living classic" Kartsev to revise one of his previous works, Moscow 2042.

After reading his book, which he has not yet written, Vitaly Kartsev is asked to delete all references to Sim Simych Karnavalov. Sim—a devastating caricature of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn—desires to return to Moscow from the West after...

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