• “I have been an elated reader of all the great Russian novelists and short-story writers since my early twenties and I have often written about them, though I know no Russian and have never been to Russia. The lure for me (I realize now) lay in John Bayley’s wonderful phrase—I believe in his learned introduction to Pushkin’s Letters—that the “doors of the Russian house are wide open”: we see people who speak out in the lost hours of the day as it passes through them.”

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