My Years With Gorbachev and Shevardnadze: The Memoir of a Soviet Interpreter
By Pavel Palazchenko
Penn State Press, 1997, 394 pp.
Translating History: The Top Russian Interpreter's Twenty-Five Years on the Front Line of Diplomacy
By Igor Korchilov
Scribner, 1997, 400 pp.
By now almost all those connected with the Gorbachev era have published their memoirs, including Gorbachev himself. Add to these now the retellings of his interpreters. Palazchenko became Gorbachev's primary interpreter in English; Korchilov backed him up and served as Shevardnadze's principal interpreter. Together they offer further cross-checks on the accounts we already have of the many meetings Reagan, Shultz, Bush, and Baker held with their Soviet counterparts. Beyond this they add conversations at formal dinners and luncheons, in automobiles, and on daises. Both men are reflective about their former bosses, taking the scene in critically but with sympathy and perceptiveness. Korchilov conveys well the human qualities of both men. Of the two, however, Palazchenko provides the meatier account of the substantive issues in U.S.-Soviet relations. Doubtless this is in large part because he eventually became a part of the U.S. and Canada section of the foreign ministry and worked on the substantive arms controls issues so prominent in the negotiations.