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Publisher's Summary

The “Metro” of the title of this brilliant and mordant social comedy refers to the Moscow underground - the sparkling subway system that enchants its young hero, seven-year-old Sasha, on his first visit to Moscow. The vaulted ceilings and gleaming escalators appear to his young eyes as emblems of a higher life, of beauty, harmony, and hidden strength. Years later, Sasha escapes the jaws of a provincial ammunition factory and returns to Moscow as an aspiring actor, whereupon he enters quite another “Moscow underground” - a Bohemian network of ardent individuals, of actors and artists, informers and alcoholics, con men and black marketeers, all subverting in their own way the dictates of the lunatic Soviet system. Alexander Kaletski’s wonderfully spirited account of Sasha’s struggles and defeats and triumphs in this vibrant underworld is without question the freshest and funniest and most moving account of the essential Russian spirit to reach American listeners in decades.

Here is a cast of characters more vivid than any Sasha could ever meet on stage: Stas, the cynical wit and Virgil to Sasha’s Dante during his seven years in Moscow; the priapic Andrewlka, part-time KGB informant and full-time fornicator; Toilik, an alcoholic of folk-hero dimensions; and the lovely Lena, Sasha’s lover, inspiration, theatrical partner, and eventually his wife. Daringly operatic episodes of comedy and horror alternate with almost documentary insights into making do and getting by - how to find Moscow lodgings without propiska, the coveted residency certificate, how to avoid service in military that routinely drafts the blind and the lame, how to achieve the most achingly desired status symbol of all - the right to travel abroad.

Metro is a love story, a tragedy, a black comedy, a novel of adventure and escape. Its bewitching hero, Sasha - naive, determined, romantic, resourceful, utterly in love with freedom - will touch listeners’ hearts. After finishing Metro, American listeners may well feel this: how wonderful not to live in Russia; how sad not to be Russian.

©1985 Alexander Kaletski (P)2021 Alexander Kaletski

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Take a visit on the Metro…

A few years after this book was published, I smuggled myself into the Soviet Union, bypassing the watchful eyes of Intourist and the government, and wandered illegally through that ‘riddle wrapped in a mystery wrapped in an enigma’.

It was one of the most dangerous, wonderful, difficult, and bittersweet adventures of my life. There is no way for any foreigner to describe the spirit, complexities, strength, frustrations, and infinite paradoxes that were and are the Soviet Russians that I came to love so dearly… but this book made me feel back at home with them, as only a Russian could write.

While the tale may seem fanciful and fantastic, I can assure you that this wonderful story captures a reality of life in what was a most strange place, and a most complex culture…

You have not stepped through the looking-glass, you have just traveled to the USSR…