The Archivist’s Story

Written by Travis Holland
Review by Mike Ashworth

Moscow 1939. Pavel Dubrov, a young archivist is given the final works by the author Isaac Babel to destroy. The young man in a small act of rebellion against the vast corrupt Stalinist bureaucracy decides to save the stories of the writer whom he admires. It is a small but highly dangerous decision in a world where any form of dissent will, if discovered, result in arrest by the secret police.

Set against the background of the German invasion of Poland, The Archivist’s Story is a simple but compelling story about ordinary individuals caught up in the faceless totalitarianism of Soviet Russia. The atmosphere of hopelessness mixed with, at times, blind, unfounded optimism is chillingly evoked in this book. The characters evolve through their actions and conversations rather than springing forth through the lines of description, and their ordinariness makes them more vulnerable and sympathetic.

As the book progressed I found myself drawn in to Pavel’s rather mundane life where every action taken could have fatal consequences. An understated but thought- provoking read.