Orlando Figes is Professor of History at Birkbeck College, University of London. He is the author, most recently, of Revolutionary Russia: 1891–1991: A History. (May 2016)


The Courage of the Composer

Dmitri Shostakovich; drawing by William Kentridge for his production of Shostakovich’s opera The Nose, 2009

The Noise of Time

by Julian Barnes
In Flaubert’s Parrot (1984), his best-known novel, Julian Barnes recounts the scene in L’Éducation sentimentale where Frédéric, its hero, “wanders through an area of Paris wrecked by the 1848 uprising” and notices “amid the chaos” things that have survived by chance: He sees a clock, some prints—and a parrot’s perch.

The Tragic Wife of the Composer

Lina Prokofiev with her husband Serge, his mother Maria Grigorievna Prokofieva, and their son Svyatoslav, Paris, 1924

Lina and Serge: The Love and Wars of Lina Prokofiev

by Simon Morrison
Among the wives of famous men who languished in the Gulag, few had a more tragic tale to tell than Lina Prokofiev, the wife of the composer, who in 1948 was sentenced to twenty years in the labor camps of the far north for “treason to the motherland.” Soviet Russia …

A Double Game with Stalin

Mikhail Bulgakov


a play by by John Hodge, directed by Nicholas Hytner


by John Hodge
Collaborators starts with the writer Mikhail Bulgakov (played by Alex Jennings) waking from a nightmare in which he is being chased around his small apartment by Stalin (Simon Russell Beale). Tripped and lying on the floor, Bulgakov is about to be killed by the scary dictator, looming over him with …

A Great Russian Writer in the Communist Cauldron

Andrey Platonov, Voronezh, 1922

The Foundation Pit

by Andrey Platonov, translated from the Russian by Robert and Elizabeth Chandler and Olga Meerson, and with an afterword by Robert Chandler and Olga Meerson

Soul and Other Stories

by Andrey Platonov, translated from the Russian by Robert and Elizabeth Chandler, with Katia Grigoruk, Angela Livingstone, Olga Meerson, and Eric Naiman, and with an afterword by John Berger
For literature, perhaps the most precious dividend from the collapse of the Soviet system has been the discovery of previously censored or unknown manuscripts by the great writer Andrey Platonov. Joseph Brodsky put him on a par with Joyce, Musil, and Kafka. Yet in his own lifetime in Russia he …


Hamming Up Bulgakov

Daniel Radcliffe and Jon Hamm in A Young Doctor’s Notebook

It’s not hard to see why Mikhail Bulgakov’s books are so often dramatized. He was himself a dramatist, and adapted his own novel The White Guard (1925) for the stage. His prose is highly visual, full of humorous incidents, theatrical in atmosphere, and frequently surreal—all qualities that lend it to the stage and screen. But not all his books were written in that vein. A new television series starring Jon Hamm and Daniel Radcliffe shows that Bulgakov is becoming better known, but not necessarily through his own words.