The infernal smile of Moscow
Photo of Moscow by Anastasiy Safari used under a Creative Commons license.

Michael Frayn, The Russian Interpreter (Faber and Faber, 2005).
Originally published in 1966, a novel of intrigue that works as a sketch of the mental geography of Moscow during the Cold War for Western visitors. Paul Manning, an English graduate student at Moscow University, falls in with Raya, a mercurial Russian. Things grow more complicated when the object of her affections shifts from Manning to Gordon Proctor-Gould, a British businessman who employs Manning to work on the side as a translator, not least because Raya speaks no English and Proctor-Gould no Russian. Under these circumstances, things would be strained even with the pervasive sense that other agendas, perhaps related to national security interests, are at stake. The Moscow depicted here is now more than forty years old, but surely not all has changed. The novel won the Hawthornden Prize in 1967.

Here is Wikipedia’s page about Frayn. Here is more about Frayn. Via Google BookSearch, this excerpt of Merritt Mosely’s Understanding Michael Frayn discusses The Russian Interpreter. In 2005, Frayn described how he drew on his experiences as an exchange student in Moscow. Simon McLeish says it shows the influence of Evelyn Waugh.  Marcy Kahan, who says the novel summons up a comic yet hideously claustrophobic Moscow, interviewed Frayn for Bomb.

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