In FICTIONS AND LIES, a writer dies suddenly, in fear of KGB pursuit. His last manuscript, which is thought to be dangerously anti-Soviet, is missing from his apartment, so immediately becomes the object of a rapid police search. As it is traced, whom will it implicate, and what else will it reveal? Deftly, we are led into a world where right and wrong are problematic in ways we never experienced in the West, where integrity and self-respect may prove costly for one's family and friends, where compromise may prove unexpectedly difficult to avoid, and yet where truth and honesty matter all the more for being so elusive.
Odessa-born memoirist, poet and novelist Ratushinskaya (Grey Is the Color of Hope) makes a compelling case for the notion that nearly everyone in 1970s Soviet literary circles secretly worked for the KGB. In her second novel, the author, who received a seven-year prison sentence in 1983 for "anti-Soviet" poetry, writes with eloquence and authority, telling a gripping tale of betrayal, fear and compromise among Soviet writers at a time when state politics precluded intellectual freedom and creativity. Writer Pavel Pulin suffers a massive heart attack, and before he has drawn his last breath, KGB directorate head Fillip Savich sets his minions in search of Pulin's hidden anti-Soviet manuscript. When Pulin's closest friend, children's book writer Anton Semyonovich Nikolin, is identified as the prime suspect for hiding the propaganda, numerous intricate and increasingly spellbinding plot turns arise, involving various secret agents, literary colleagues and lovers. Nikolin, suddenly befriended by a writing colleague, has an affair with one Tatyana (code name "Forget-me-not"), and then is betrayed by his longtime friend and lover, Nastenka (also known as "Buttercup"). Nikolin suffers through KGB intimidation and scrutiny while one Soviet agent discovers that his own son is close friends with the true, and unlikely, culprit who hid Pulin's manuscript. A satisfying epilogue sees all the players receiving their just rewards. With fiery, skillfully translated prose and fresh insight into memorable characters, Ratushinskaya exposes the myriad clandestine psychological cat-and-mouse games and double standards used by the KGB, deftly recreating the labyrinthine atmosphere of Soviet Russia.