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This review is taken from PN Review 68, Volume 15 Number 6, July - August 1989.

THE IRONIC DISSIDENT Leonid Borodin, Partings, translated by David Floyd (Collins Harvill) £10.95

Leonid Borodin will have known very little about the publication in the West in English translation of his novel Partings. In 1983 he was sentenced to ten years in a prison camp for "anti-Soviet agitation" and so will have been kept well apart from involvement in his literary affairs. This has come to be a somewhat familiar position for the unfortunate Borodin. The latest term of incarceration was preceded by six years in the camps between 1967 and 1973, following the breaking up by the Soviet authorities of the All-Russian Social Christian Union for the Liberation of the People to which Borodin belonged. Happily, however, Borodin's situation changed for the better and he was released prematurely from his ten-year term, apparently without conditions and in good health.

Partings is the latest of several works by Borodin to be published outside the USSR. The translation by David Floyd reads fluently, though is marred by the occasional slip. The novel was first published in Russian in West Germany in 1984, but it was written some three years earlier, and so the depiction of Moscow intellectual life which it contains reflects the end of the Brezhnev era and predates the current cultural thaw and Gorbachev's glasnost. The book is by no means outdated, however. Borodin's bitterly ironic portrayal of the Moscow intelligentsia, of their concerns and compromises with the Soviet state, is as topical under glasnost as it was before it.
 
For most writers a sceptical glance ...


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