THE KREMLIN BALL

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New York Review Books

Perhaps only the impeccably perverse imagination of Curzio Malaparte could have conceived of The Kremlin Ball, which might be described as Proust in the corridors of Soviet power. The book is set at the end of the 1920s, when the Great Terror may have been nothing more than a twinkle in Stalin’s eye, but when the revolution was accompanied by a growing sense of doom. In Malaparte’s vision it is from his nightly opera box, rather than the Kremlin, that Stalin surveys Soviet high society, its scandals and amours and intrigues among beauties and bureaucrats, including the legendary ballerina Marina Semyonova and Olga Kameneva, a sister of the exiled Trotsky, who though a powerful politician is so consumed by dread that everywhere she goes she gives off the smell of rotting meat. This extraordinary court chronicle of Communist life (for which Malaparte also contemplated the title God Is a Killer) was published posthumously and appears now in English for the first time.


PRAISE

“The Kremlin Ball” is a fascinating and unique work. The narrative is fragmentary, although how much of this is because of the unfinished nature of the work is not clear. Characters come and go, their names undergoing subtle variations; there are repetitions of descriptions; and all of this reflects Moscow itself, undergoing changes of its own and in as much of a state of flux as the narrative itself. “
– Kaggsy’s Review


“Malaparte may just be the original postmodernist, at least as far as genre-crossing is concerned…A head-swirling kaleidoscope that, though fictional, is never for a moment fictitious.”
– Kirkus Reviews


“Surreal, disenchanted, on the edge of amoral, Malaparte broke literary ground for writers from Ryszard Kapuscinski to Joseph Heller.”
– Frederika Randall, The Wall Street Journal


“Malaparte enlarged the art of fiction in more perverse, inventive, and darkly liberating ways than one would imagine possible, long before novelists like Philip Roth, Robert Coover, and E. L. Doctorow began using their own and other people’s histories as Play-Doh.”
– Gary Indiana


“A scrupulous reporter? Probably not. One of the most remarkable writers of the twentieth century? Certainly.”
– Ian Buruma


“This is a glimpse of 1920s Moscow, among the Soviet high society. It’s the aftertaste of the revolution. Published posthumously, Malaparte’s court chronicle captures Stalin as the surveyor of every intrigue and scandal from his nightly opera box.”
The New York Times, New & Noteworthy


“Malaparte drops names, titles, and geography freely, and this version of the text has excellent notes that keep someone less familiar with Moscow and Soviet people well informed, while Jenny McPhee’s introduction helps to frame the book with Malaparte’s biography.”
– Cleaver Magazine


“Malaparte is bedeviled by the issue of religion in Russia’s new communist heart. Where does Christ fit in this loudly, mockingly atheist realm? Furthermore, where is death? Malaparte’s musings on the fate of the old guard – among them such characters as Leon Trotsky’s sister – are both referential and, thanks to Jenny McPhee’s translation, effortlessly flowing. The narrator’s speculations about the aristocrats are interwoven with colorful traceries of Moscow. As the dream of communism sours, Malaparte explores the repressed sentimentalism and despair of his hosts, and the ominous shadow of something more dangerous than idealism.”
The Arkansas International


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