Moscow in the 1930s: A Novel from the Archives

Written by Natalia Gromova
Review by Edward James

Are you knowledgeable and passionate about Russian literature, art and music of the first half of the 20th century? If you are, this is the book for you, full of unexpected treasures. If not, this is not the best place to start. Natalia Gromova is knowledgeable and passionate about these topics and their practitioners and writes for people like herself.  For people like me, interested but far from knowledgeable, most of the ‘legendary’ names are meaningful only with the help of a Google search.

Although sub-titled ‘a novel from the archives’ this is a non-fiction work written in a novelistic style based not on conventional archival research but mainly on interviews with survivors, mostly widows and former lovers of writers and artists who suffered under the Communist regime. It is not confined to the 1930s or to Moscow.  There is no story line, just snatches of personal history. Some of the best pieces are from Gromova’s own life in post-war Moscow.