Michael Scammell is the author of biographies of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and Arthur Koestler, and has translated many books from Russian. He is now working on a memoir. (April 2016)


A Different ‘Darkness at Noon’

Arthur Koestler, circa 1950
Last July a German doctoral student named Matthias Weßel made a remarkable discovery: a copy of the German manuscript of Arthur Koestler’s masterpiece. The implications are considerable, for Darkness at Noon is that rare specimen, a book known to the world only in translation.

The Bad Boy of Russian Poetry

Vladimir Mayakovsky with Scotty, a dog bought by Lili Brik in England, at the Briks’ dacha in Pushkino, summer 1924

Mayakovsky: A Biography

by Bengt Jangfeldt, translated from the Swedish by Harry D. Watson
When Vladimir Mayakovsky committed suicide on April 14, 1930, the news sent shock waves through the Soviet Union. Ilya Ehrenburg, who knew of Mayakovsky’s notorious gambling habit, thought he might have been playing Russian roulette with his beloved Mauser pistol and lost his bet. But Mayakovsky’s suicide note, written two …

The CIA’s ‘Zhivago’

Boris Pasternak and Olga Ivinskaya at his dacha in Peredelkino, late 1950s

The Zhivago Affair: The Kremlin, the CIA, and the Battle Over a Forbidden Book

by Peter Finn and Petra Couvée

Inside the Zhivago Storm: The Editorial Adventures of Pasternak’s Masterpiece

by Paolo Mancosu
Two new books describe in great detail the way the CIA successfully covered its tracks and the mechanisms it used to get a Russian-language edition of Boris Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago published in Europe.

The Russian Nobility Under the Red Terror

Count Pavel Sheremetev in his family’s room in Naprudny Tower at the Novodevichy ­Monastery, Moscow, where they were sent to live after being expelled from their apartment outside Moscow in 1929. Surrounding him are the remains of the family archive and library, including a photograph of his late mother.

Former People: The Final Days of the Russian Aristocracy

by Douglas Smith
When I was studying Russian at a British army language school in the 1950s, most of my teachers were Russian émigrés who had fled the Bolshevik Revolution. To a provincial like me they seemed a strange and exotic bunch. One bohemian used to walk around in a billowing duffel coat …

Love Against All Odds

Lev Mishchenko and Svetlana Ivanova, 1936

Just Send Me Word: A True Story of Love and Survival in the Gulag

by Orlando Figes
The principal institution in Russia for investigating Gulag history and insisting on the nation’s responsibility for its past continues to be the excellent Memorial society, which despite harassment and hostility from the Putin government steadfastly pursues its work of collecting historical evidence and making it available to the public. Among …