Russia: a long-shot romance
When in 1988 Jo Durden-Smith undertook to write an article about Leningrad for an American travel magazine, the Soviet Union loomed like "a black hole on the edge of Europe . . . impenetrable and incomprehensible", yielding faint traces of meaning only "against the odds of the local gravity". From the moment he stepped off the airplane, Durden-Smith found himself as an unchaperoned (and unusually tall) Westerner in the early months of glasnost, to be a genuine curiosity, both on the street and at the gatherings of Russian intelligentsia to which he was graciously admitted. What he was unprepared for was the force of his own curiosity, how swiftly he grew convinced that Mikhail Gorbachev's Soviet Union was "the most interesting place on earth: a place that offered . . . a sort of salvation". Of course, curiosity is no guarantee of understanding, and the more engrossed he became in Russian ideas, habits, and passions, the more paradoxical they appeared. Until he met Yelena. An interpreter for the Soviet film industry, Yelena Zagrevskaya was "as defensively ladylike as any class-climbing Englishwoman". Carefully dressed in Western fashions, she was exotic yet familiar - at least, so she seemed at first. For even Yelena could not solve Russia for Durden-Smith; as he got to know her, falling in love with "the bottomless, unfathomable drama of her", he realized that a paradox is a paradox only to the uninitiated. And his own initiation would stretch over years, carrying him through a blighted film project and a failed coup, and finally landing him in a ramshackle bungalow outside Moscow with a wife and baby daughter - never happier. This book of warmth and intelligence will serve as thereader's initiation into a land of perilous dreams and vanishing certainties. Russia may be experimenting with democracy, but to the Westerner its culture remains utterly foreign. "This is not any kind of Europe we know. It's China. It's the moon; it's Byzantium". It's inexhaustibly fascinating.
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RUSSIA: A Long-Shot RomanceUser Review - Kirkus
From British journalist and filmmaker Jo Durden-Smith (Who Killed George Jackson?, 1976), a warm and perceptive memoir of his love affair with Russia and with the woman he married, which began with a ... Read full review
Russia, a long-shot romanceUser Review - Not Available - Book Verdict
Durden-Smith is a journalist and filmmaker whose travels to the Soviet Union in the late 1980s led not only to his love for a Russian woman but a deep and abiding love for Russia and its people ... Read full review