A New York Times Notable Book of 2007
"A tremendous achievement."The Sunday Times (London)
The Whisperers is a triumphant act of recovery. In this powerful work of history, Orlando Figes chronicles the private history of family life during the violent and repressive reign of Josef Stalin. Drawing on a vast collection of interviews and archives, The Whisperers re-creates the anguish of family members turned against one anotherof the paranoia, alienation, and treachery that poisoned private life in Russia for generations. A panoramic portrait of a society in which everyone spoke in whispers, The Whisperers is "rigorously compassionate. . . . A humbling monument to the evil and endurance of Russia's Soviet past and, implicitly, a guide to its present" (The Economist).
|Edition description:||First Edition|
|Product dimensions:||9.18(w) x 6.02(h) x 1.33(d)|
About the Author
Orlando Figes is the author of Natasha's Dance: A Cultural History of Russia and A People's Tragedy: The Russian Revolution, 1891–1924, which received the Wolfson Prize, the NCR Book Award, the W. H. Smith Literary Award, the Longman/History Today Book Prize, and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. He is a professor of history at Birkbeck College, University of London.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I bought this book out of curiosity: there are few testimonies about the daily lives of ordinary people in the USSR during Stalinism. I found that and much more in this remarkable work. I couldn't simply let it aside! People is portrayed, their houses described in detail and the very atmosphere of Stalin´s USSR comes to life under your eyes... It´s obvious that such a book is the result of a thorough investigation, but it is not written in the usual aseptic essay tone. There re so many stories and information there, that I guess it deserves a second reading.
Many of the books written about life during Stalin's reign are gulag survivor stories. Little has been written about everyday Soviet life during the years 1930-1953. Even less has been written about the minor bureaucrats who were successful during these years. The Whisperers is a well-researched and -documented account of ordinary individuals and families caught up in the terror, both those who were repressed and some who succeeded during those years.In Russian there are two words that mean "whisperer": one for those who whisper in fear to avoid being heard, and the other for those who whisper in order to inform behind people's backs. That is the crux of the situation under Stalin and the crux of the book. Everyone was a whisperer of one sort or another and sometimes both. In trying to unravel the complexities and pyschological issues of the times, Orlando Figes interviews hundreds of people, often having to suss out the truth from amidst the reticence, the self-deception, the faulty memories, and the hidden lies. The result is a fascinating account of Soviet Russia that gets at the heart of how people had to whisper, to deceive, and to hide within themselves in order to survive.I was daunted at first by the book's size (740 pages), but quickly became engrossed. It reads like a novel and includes the stories of dozens of fascinating people. I enjoyed both the mini-memoirs and the more philosophical sections that dealt with the impact of the repression, the psychological trauma that individuals incurred and passed on to their children, and the ways in which people contorted their psyches in order to live in such an Orwellian society. I would highly recommend the book to anyone interested in Russia or oppressed peoples.