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Spy in the Archives, A

PDF Part memoir, part Soviet history I couldn't help wondering if this book had a smaller audience than the quality of the writing deserves. Fitzpatrick plunges in with the tale of how she fell in love with the Soviet Union - not the political establishment but the place and it's people, and carries you quickly, just as you sense she was carried, into the world of Moscow and Lunacharski studies, of cld and shortages, and debates and intense intellectualism and idealism.
She captures the ideological maelstrom of Soviet politics in the 60s,pre- and post- Czechoslovakia invasion, as well as the realities of a society rife with spying of one sort or another. This world is captivating, of realists and disillusioned revolutionaries who still believe that their lives and work and choices will matter, and young people desperate to survive, maybe even get ahead, even if it means passing on information which may, or may not, have consequences.
Through this, Fitzpatrick describes a younger self who seems to drift through the dangers and personal complications, ever riveted on her studies and the contemporary and historic world of Soviet literature and critique. It is perhaps here, in the memoir space, that the book falls down a little - we see the world as young-Shiela sees it but she remains irritatingly opaque, making unconventional and often puzzling personal choices.
The book's coverage of the word of Soviet research, however, is its triumph. Belying the simplistic worlds of both anti-communists and fellow-travellers, Fitzgerald paints a multi-hued picture of a society embedded in struggle, and wanting to be so much better than it was. At the start of the book, Fitzpatrick mentions trying to get her first article withdrawn from publication - an extraordinary step really for a young academic, and you wonder what could have brought her to this. AS the book wends on, it becomes obvious - simply meeting and caring for these assionate anti-Stalinist communists and not-quite-dissidents provides a revelation about how ignorant and unhelpful a smug outsider critique is. And at the same time, it is the sheer waste of its passionate people that most ends up condemning the SU.

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