Review 1500: Sofia Petrovna

The heroine of Sofia Petrovna is an ordinary Soviet woman, not political but a happy worker at a publishing house. She has a son, Kolya, a promising engineering student who is a dedicated party member.

Then things begin to go wrong. She hears of the arrest of some doctors, one of whom she knows. They have been accused of sabotage. She can hardly believe it. He seemed like such a nice man. But if they say it is true, it must be. Then Kolya is arrested.

Lydia Chukovskaya’s novella about the Great Purge under Stalin was written in 1939-40, and she kept it hidden for years. A Soviet publishing company accepted it for publication in 1962, but when it was almost ready, backed out. It was finally published in Europe in 1965 after having been smuggled out of the country.

This is a deeply interesting and harrowing novella about what happens to an individual when the world seems to have gone crazy.

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