Figures in a Red Landscape

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Figures in a Red Landscape

By Pilar Bonet
The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1993
148 pp. $18.95
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Bonet reported from Moscow for the Spanish newspaper El Pais from 1984 to 1991. She must be a modest person. Despite being on the scene for all these historic years, she chooses to write a slim book of short vignettes, each featuring someone whose life or convictions illuminate an important corner of the Soviet experience. Some of the portraits, such as the one drawn of Alexander Men, the Russian Orthodox priest, who was born into a Jewish family and murdered the week she interviewed him, reveal more than whole books devoted to Russian anti-Semitism. Others, such as the encounter with Rembert Paloson, an Estonian whose father was destroyed by the regime in 1942 when he was a ten-year-old boy, whose family was shipped off to Siberia, who eventually came to head a large state farm near Tomsk, where Siberia and Asia join, who seems an honest and able man, and who believed deeply in the Soviet system and its ideals even while the system was collapsing, remind one of how much less simple all this was than most of us assume. As she says of her subjects: "Each encapsulates a number of historical layers that do not always produce a harmonious blend."

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