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The Russian Affair: A Novel Hardcover – Deckle Edge, April 12, 2011

3.8 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Wallner's beautifully crafted if sometimes slow-moving evocation of 1970s Russia focuses on the struggles of 27-year-old Anna Tsazukhina, a house painter who lives in a small Moscow apartment with her famous poet father, Viktor Tsazukhin; her frail son, Petya; and her army officer husband, Leonid, though he's often on active duty far away. As she attempts to find food for her family and medicine for her son, she dreams of acquiring better living quarters. Once Anna begins an affair with Alexey Bulyagkov, a high government official, her everyday live becomes easier, but—this being Soviet-era Russia—she must pay a price. A KGB colonel recruits her to spy on Alexey and report on their affair. Wallner (April in Paris) ratchets up the suspense as he slowly peels away the layers of deceit. Patient readers willing to forgo flat-out action will be rewarded. (Apr.)
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“Tense, evocative and moving. Wallner expertly depicts the dreariness, paranoia and intrigue of the Soviet Union in the early 1970s, while simultaneously crafting a deep, heartfelt love story peopled by fully realized characters facing difficult situations, forced to act without a clear-cut notion of right and wrong.”
—Kirkus Reviews

"Wallner brings the 1970s Soviet Union to life in this suspenseful tale of love and espionage during the Cold War."
—The Daily Beast

Praise for April in Paris:

“Bittersweet, resonant ... [Wallner] evokes war-ravaged Paris with a deft touch.”
New York Times Book Review

"Touching [and] thrilling ...  An impressive debut."
USA Today

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Nan A. Talese; First Edition edition (April 12, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385532393
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385532396
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 1.3 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,306,912 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By E. Bukowsky HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 1, 2011
Format: Hardcover
In Michael Wallner's "The Russian Affair," nicely translated from the German by John Cullen, twenty-seven year old Anna Tsazukhina lives in her father's apartment with her husband, Leonid, an army officer, and their little boy, Petya. Stalin is long dead and Kosygin shares power with Brezhnev. Five Year Plans are still being made, the KGB is feared, and Soviet citizens are expected to forgo their personal needs for the good of the state. Government leaders insist that their land is Utopia, but the reality falls far short of this ideal.

Anna's life is stressful. She works as a house painter and shops, cooks, and cleans when she gets home. Petya is often ill and has difficulty breathing; he desperately needs a good doctor to diagnose and treat his condition. Anna's father, Viktor Ipalyevich Tsazukhin, is a cantankerous but good-hearted individual who was a celebrated poet at one time. He now leads a fairly secluded life, and misses the acclaim of bygone days. Adding to her worries, Anna's marriage is falling apart; whatever passion she and her husband once shared is gone.

Everything changes when Anna meets the Deputy Minister for Research Planning, Alexey Maximovich Bulyagkov. Although he is married, somewhat portly, and much older than she is, Alexey finds Anna appealing and arranges to meet with her surreptitiously. Their relationship complicates Anna's life tremendously. Although she is not dishonest by nature, she is willing to live a double life in order to procure better medical care for Petya and a higher standard of living for her family. Her desires are not unreasonable: "a good education for her son, her own apartment, and perhaps, eventually, a car.
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Format: Hardcover
Michale Wallner is terrific. I was so taken by his "April in Paris" (that I just read a month ago) that I was happy to find out a new novel of his just got published - this one. I rarely go wrong when Nan Talese puts her stamp on the Doubleday book. Just like Wallner took me into Paris during WWII, I got a sense of living in the Soviet Union filled with people spying on others. Wallner's descriptions are vivid. His characters have stayed with me. He has lines that I had to write down. Wallner makes me think about integrity, broken relationships, life's complexities.

Please - hurry up, and translate more of Wallner's novels. Or I'll have to learn how to read German!
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I thoroughly enjoyed reading "The Russian Affair" it isn't a typical love story but more of a spy vs spy story, a real page turner that held my interest until the book was finished. I did find it a little disjointed at times as some of the info comes out as you get really into the book, no complaints here, a really good read in my humble opinion...
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Format: Paperback
Beautifully and slowly paced, this book evokes a boring but not unhappy existence, a daily grind of survival and routine. Anna lives with her father, a once highly regarded but now unfashionable poet, her husband and six-year-old son in a one and a half room apartment in Moscow. The half room is a curtained off sleeping area which she occupies with Leonid, her unambitious ill paid army officer husband, and son Petya, while her father sleeps on the couch. Anna, a former member of the young pioneers, works as a house painter but does not appear to aspire to anything more than getting a larger apartment in Moscow and getting through the day. To this end she persuades her husband to accept a promotion to captain which is the reward, along with substantially increased pay, for a 12 month posting in the far east in order to move up the queue. Leonid's idea of a army career is to push paper in an office as far away from any action as he can find until he collects a pension. In the meantime Anna has drifted into an affair of convenience with a soviet official. To begin with there is no love, it appears to be a means of adding some excitement to her rather dull life - a passer by spoke to her charmingly one day and later called to ask to meet her. Although she loves her husband, sort of, and has no intention of being unfaithful the excitement of the forbidden draws her in. Eventually things drift out of control. Anna finds that her connection to the official can pay off in small ways - reinstating her father to prominence - getting a promotion for Leonid - getting a good doctor for her ailing son - moving up the queue for the right to live in Moscow - nothing overt, just subtle and within the system.Read more ›
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