A RUSSIAN REQUIEM
Little Brown, September 1993;
AJAR Contemporaries, 2011
Two weeks before the failed right-wing coup of August 1991, Anton Czesich, an American in his late forties who has spent a mostly disillusioning career working overseas for the U.S. government, arrives in Moscow to take charge of a volatile American food distribution program—a program administered by Julie Stirvin, the love of his youth. She and Czesich have their own history, their own protracted cold war. Many miles away, in the mining center of Vostok, Soviet bureaucrat Serghei Propenko, a former champion boxer, is in the midst of his own midlife crisis—partly personal, partly political. Modest and decent, surrounded by a household of strong-willed and politically astute women, Propenko is pinched between his traditional ambitions and concern for his very untraditional daughter, Lydia. As Czesich's and Propenko's fates intersect, it becomes clear that both men are partially paralyzed by the same suspicions and fears that crippled Soviet-American relations for so long.
A Russian Requiem is a page-turner with depth, a finely crafted novel about the small piece of history each of us bears and the way our intimate live reflect and echo in the politics of nations. Speckled with humor and irony, rich in both psychological and political drama, it carries the reader on a post-cold war voyage through the Russian—and American—soul.
"The scope, power, and magnitude of this book amazed me... Merullo's understanding of the Russian soul goes far beyond that of any other American author I've ever read. If I were to pick the one book this reminds me of more than any other, it would The Quiet American [by] Graham Greene... But in many ways I think A Russian Requiem is better."
– Joe McGinniss
"A marvelous fictional exploration of a potentially great, but deeply flawed, country gone absolutely haywire... In its gritty authenticity, its keen political and historical savvy, in its heartfelt grasp of a human and national tragedy, and most of all its splendid characters, A Russian Requiem is one of the very best novels I've read in years."
– Howard Frank Mosher
"Roland Merullo's ingenious novel... is stamped on every page with a veracity that could only have been imagined. I love the pace and texture of this book, its urgency and ultimate compassion for what gets lost in the translation from one phase in a country's history to another. There is wonderful writing in these pages. I hope A Russian Requiem finds the large audience it deserves."
– Jay Parini
"A Russian Requiem has the brilliance that only comes when a gifted storyteller has had substantial experience with his subject. It is a remarkable book... beautifully written, filled with large characters clearly rendered."
– Craig Nova
"A moving novel—with great cinematic potential—that brilliantly captures the historically tense moment of Russia on the verge of freedom, just before the attempted coup and the Party's last gasps."
– Kirkus Reviews