The Irrationality and Maximalism of Russia

Liesl Schillinger at the New York Times reviews Owen Matthews’ book Stalin’s Children:

His parents, he learned, met and fell in love in Moscow in 1963, while his father was doing graduate work at Moscow State University. After they tried, unsuccessfully, to register their marriage, Mervyn was deported and sent back to England. For the next five and a half years, he sacrificed his career, his savings and his energies to a relentless campaign to rejoin Lyudmila,even as she slid into a “morbid depression.” “I think,” his son writes, “he had become infected by something of the irrationality and maximalism of Russia.” But Matthews’s mother was equally stubborn: “Both Mila and Mervyn had always refused to reconcile themselves to what others believed was reasonable.” On Oct. 30, 1969, their tireless suit finally succeeded. “If I have realized anything in writing this book,” Matthews notes, “it is that my father is a deeply honorable man. He had promised to marry Mila, and he would keep his word.” On paper and in life, their son came to see that his blended heritage was more significant than he had appreciated. “All of us,” he writes, “even me, who grew up in England — still carry something of Russia inside ourselves, infecting our blood like a fever.”