Denunciation became so commonplace under Stalin that people regarded it as their patriotic duty to spy on others and even expose members of their own family. The original Bolsheviks, for reasons of ideological purity, put great store in transparency. But under Stalin, transparency evolved into a state of constant surveillance.
In the late 1930s, a young man named Sasha Parsky kills two soldiers who come to arrest his parents as kulaks. He escapes arrest—though not suspicion. Sasha, now under greater scrutiny, is asked by Boris Filatov, the chief of the local secret police, to take a position as the head of a small boys’ school with the condition that Sasha spy on the previous director, who was dismissed for political reasons.
As Sasha’s visits to the exiled man turn into discussions on politics and Sasha begins making changes at the school, it is only a matter of time before anonymous letters denouncing him begin to appear on Filatov’s desk. But even more ominous is the appearance of two men from the past who have the knowledge to do Sasha great harm. Caught between Filatov and the fear of exposure, Sasha risks everything by testing the fidelity of a loved one.
Paul M. Levitt, professor of English at the University of Colorado at Boulder, teaches modern drama, theatre history, and the gangster novel. He has written more than twenty books (five of them novels), radio plays for the BBC, books about medicine, stories for children, and numerous scholarly and popular articles. He lives in Boulder, Colorado.