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Molotov's Magic Lantern

When Rachel Polonsky went to live in Moscow, she found an apartment block in Romanov Street, once a residence of the Soviet elite. One of those ghostly neighbours was Stalin's henchman Vyacheslav Molotov. In Molotov's former apartment, Rachel Polonsky discovered his library and an old magic lantern. Molotov - ruthless apparatchik, participant in the collectivizations and the Great Purge - was also an ardent bibliophile. Molotov's library and his magic lantern became the prisms through which Rachel Polonsky renewed her vision of Russia. She visited cities and landscapes associated with the books in the library - Chekhov, Dostoevsky, Pushkin, Akhmatova and many less well-known figures. Some were sent to the Gulag by the man who collected their books. She writes exceptionally well about the longings and aspirations of Russian writers in the course of a journey that takes her to the Arctic and Siberia, the Crimean summer and Lake Baikal, from the forests around Moscow to the vast steppes. In each place she encountered the spirit of great artists and the terrible past of a country ravaged by war, famine, and totalitarianism.
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Molotov's Magic Lantern: A Journey in Russian History by Rachel Polonsky is an unforgettable exploration of a country and its literature.

About the Author

Rachel is a very well-respected academic and journalist who has written for Prospect, Guardian, TLS and Spectator among others. She now lives in Cambridge with her family.


Praise for "Molotov's Magic Lantern" "Cogently descriptive, empathic, plucky, and acerbic, Polonsky begins with a tour of Moscow's grim landmarks of the Stalin era, then ventures out into the countryside, excavating the tragic and heroic stories of writers and scientists who suffered banishment and worse, many the victims of Molotov's industrious murderousness . . . Polonsky is so steeped in Russian history and literature that everywhere she goes, her inner magic lantern projects the past onto the present, the imagined onto the real, and what we see is an illuminated land of immense brutality and beauty, suffering and spirit." -Donna Seaman, "Booklist ""The result is an eccentric work, daring in conception, peculiar in construction, that incorporates all Polonsky's teeming scholarly knowledge of Russia and the Russian people . . . In the course of her travels, Polonsky visits monasteries, dachas, sanatoriums and bath houses. H

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