In This Review

Age of Delirium: The Decline and Fall of the Soviet Union
Age of Delirium: The Decline and Fall of the Soviet Union
By David Satter
Alfred A. Knopf, 1996, 423 pp.

If you want to know just how bad it was in the Soviet Union toward the end, Satter's book is the place to go. A vivid, graceful writer and the Financial Times' long-time correspondent in Moscow, Satter exposes the sham the regime's values had become, the drunken indifference of workers, and, in particular, the senseless, bureaucratized cruelty of the KGB. The book has the appearance of a diary, but one with coherent themes. Entry follows on entry, each a concrete, sometimes dramatic vignette from someone's experience. The vignettes, however, are really Satter's means of making human and tactile the consequences once Gorbachev began fooling with the system. While the book makes no effort to provide a deep, systematic explanation for the decline and fall, it does add another useful, revealing layer to the picture created by the many other books on the subject.