Why is this period of history so endlessly fascinating for writers and readers alike?  Is it because it is so grotesquely horrible and so compelling at one and the same time?  I am not sure, all I know is that I am gripped.  Oh yes, you may say – but you are gripped by so many things; true.  But Russia and the Baltic are so different.  The Russia of Tolstoy and Dostoevsky, Pushkin and Turgenev – so romantic and also bloody but so, so different from Jane Austen say, or Thackeray.  Then from the 19th century we jump to the 20th century and suddenly the whole thing has changed.

Obviously the politics changed, you would have to be a Martian not to know that (though maybe they do, who knows?).  But the writing changed too.  Think Pasternak – still romantic but also extremely bloody, think Solzhenitsyn?  Not romantic AND very bloody, very harsh…

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