The Innocent by David Szalay
It is spring 1948 and Aleksandr, a major in the MGB - forerunner of the KGB - is sent to an isolated psychiatric clinic in the Ural mountains to investigate one of the patients there, Anatoly Yudin, a man long presumed dead, once a famous pianist, now a severely incapacitated veteran of the Second World War...Twenty-four years later, in the summer of 1972 - the summer of Nixon's visit to Moscow, of the Fischer-Spassky chess match, of the Munich Olympics and their hostage crisis - the Cold War is entering detente, and the values that shaped Aleksandr's life are starting to dissolve into uncertainty. Haunted by the events of the past, and with his Stalinist faith once more under threat, he interrogates his memories of the Yudin case, and tries to trace its effects on himself, and on those he loved most. We know the horrors of the police state and the purges, but The Innocent takes us on a journey into the everyday of Communist Russia, bringing alive the intensely personal consequences of a regime, the power of institutions and ideologies to define a life - to crush it or invest it with meaning. Following on from the success of his prize-winning debut, David Szalay returns with a searing work of acute realism and bleak beauty, the breathtaking next stage of a major literary career.