11.7.19

A GENTLEMAN IN MOSCOW, by Amor Towles

Shortly after the 1917 Bolshevik revolution tore Russia from the grasp of medieval life and thought, the new Soviet state began its tracking of Special persons, or those deemed dangerous to the new state. Count Alexander Ilyich Rostof was just such a person, but he escaped the usual fate of a firing squad. Instead,in June of 1922  he was forced into internal exile of an unusual sort: he was never again to set foot outside the Metropole Hotel, where he had resided for the past four years in a sumptuous suite furnished with precious family antiques.
The balance of this big book deals with Rostov's life in exile inside the building, and how he adjusts (or doesn't) over the following twenty-odd years.
It is amazing that, in an era and a regime that stripped all human dignity from people, Alexander Rostov managed to retain his innate dignity, humor, courtesy and charm. That last leaps off the pages in scores of moments of stress, surprise, even humiliation and passion. Around him, stupid, petty people were making stupid and petty decisions. People made demands of him few men would have been able to endure with anything approaching good humor. Count Rostov - although nobody referred to him in public other than Comrade Rostov - weather it all and, in the end, triumphed.
A fabulous, elegant read. This is a 5+, one of my favorite books this decade.

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