Barking Kitten

Fiction, musings on literature, food writing, and the occasional Friday cat blog. For lovers of serious literature, cooking, and eating.


Close to forty. Not cool. Politically left. Atheist. Happily married. No kids.

Monday, September 25, 2006

A little more on Andrea Lee

I just finished Russian Journal, her first book. Yeah, more from the Random House publicity machine. The book chronicles ten months Lee spent in Moscow with her first husband, a student of Russian History. It's an amazing document about Russian life before Perestroika. Lest one think the repressive regime she writes of dated, we need only remember certain Middle Eastern countries, North Korea, China, and even, subtly (though arguably increasingly), the United States.

Russian Journal descibes endless lines for food, the preferential treatment received by Party higher-ups and foreigners, the endless harassment citizens suffered at the hands of KGB. Particularly chilling is her description of teaching a clandestine English class to a group of Jews about to emigrate to the United States. She is warned by friends that involvement with emigrating Jews can get her thrown out of the country. Yet she takes the assignment on, even after it is clear the KGB is following her. The class responds by shifting locations. The Russians take the KGB's presence in stride, even going so far as to holler back at intimidating phone callers. They are starved to hear about the U.S but stunned by Lee's descriptions: surely the state owned her family's home of eight--eight!--rooms.

It's a wonderful book, beautifully written, well worth searching out. A new edition is in print to coincide with Lost Hearts in Italy.

Then, if you require an additional Lee fix, check out the 9/25 New Yorker for an article about Fendi handbags. Then wait another six years or so for her to write another book.


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