In This Review

The Interloper: Lee Harvey Oswald Inside the Soviet Union
The Interloper: Lee Harvey Oswald Inside the Soviet Union
By Peter Savodnik
Basic Books, 2013, 288 pp

Lee Harvey Oswald was a tangle of twisted impulses, damaged roots, confused ideals, and shallow convictions. Savodnik follows him from his early days, narrating his youthful dabbling in Marxism and his stint in the U.S. Marine Corps, where, not yet out of his teens, he was already planning to flee to the Soviet Union. He arrived there in 1959, unwanted by the Soviets and filled with half-baked ideas about communism. The authorities shunted him off to Belarus, where a wary KGB could keep an eye on him. Oswald tried to fit in, failed, soured on Soviet life, and asked for the U.S. embassy to give him back his passport less than two years after turning it over. Savodnik recounts almost month by month Oswald’s life in Minsk: his work, friends, conversations, and romances, thanks in part to intensive interviews with those who knew him or “handled” him. His firm and convincing conclusion is that Oswald acted alone when he later killed U.S. President John F. Kennedy and acted not out of animus toward Kennedy or even a misbegotten ideological impulse but rather to effect the early culmination of a life for which Oswald could find no resolution.