The Industry of Souls is the story of Alexander Bayliss, a British citizen arrested in Leipzig by the KGB in the 1950s. He is erroneously charged with espionage and accused of being an enemy of the Soviet peoples, and after a brief and "utterly irrelevant" trial he is sentenced to twenty-five years of hard labor in the work camps of Siberia. Officially reported drowned after his car went off a bridge, Bayliss (later known as Shurik) is reduced to "a filed dossier in a locked cabinet in the vaults of the Lubyanka, a lost man, a non-person." Eventually freed from the gulag in the 1970s, he has no reason to return to the West, a world he barely remembers and to which he no longer belongs--he has become Russian in everything but birth. He finds his way to the home of his best friend at the camp--Kirill. Taken in by Kirill's childless daughter and her husband, he eventually becomes a local school master--beloved by everyone in the village.
Now, on the day of Shurik's 80th birthday, Russia is changed. Communism has evaporated. In the aftermath, Shurik's true fate has been revealed to the outside world and information has come to light that he is still alive. This moving story weaves from this momentous day to his harrowing past in the camp and his life in the village. And in the end, Shurik is presented with a choice, perhaps for the first time in his life...
Martin Booth's brilliantly crafted novel is a celebration of life in the face of death, of humanity in the midst of a system that robs men of their dignity. It stands as a mature and profound exploration of the meaning of freedom and the essence of human friendship.
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This is Martin Booth's twelfth adult novel. His novel Hiroshima Joe sold more than 350,000 copies worldwide, reaching number nine on the UK bestseller list. His most recent non-fiction books include The Doctor and the Detective: A Biography of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Opium: A History. An inveterate traveler, Martin Booth frequently broadcasts for the BBC.From Kirkus Reviews:
Much published in England but known here only for his nonfiction (Opium: A History,1998), Booth offers a gripping taleshort-listed for the Bookerof the gulag and one mans escape from it. In 1952, on business in Dresden, the university-educated Englishman Alexander Bayliss is picked up by the Soviets, charged with suspicion of espionage against the USSR, found guilty, and sentenced to 25 years of labor as a coal miner somewhere above the Arctic Circle. The reader gets this information from a much later timegathering it from Baylisss own lengthy reminiscence on his 80th birthday as he makes his usual rounds of the Russian village of Myshkino, where, for 20 years, ever since the end of his sentence, he has lived with the devoted young woman Frosya and her car-mechanic husband, Trofim. What led him to the village wont be told here, as neither will the cause of the special relationship between Baylissor Shurik, his Russian nicknameand young Frosya, who transparently reveres him. Why the villagers also venerate him, however, can be toldthe reason being that even after a quarter-century in the gulag, he doesnt hate them, insisting that they did nothing to him. For Shurik, an intelligently avuncular Solzhenitsyn-figure who only occasionally becomes overbearing, there is an absolute difference between political abstractions and real people. And, as he reminisces back to the suffering, cruelty, terror, and death he suffered or witnessed, its the people who were there with him that one will remember: Titian, the math professor now imprisoned; Avel, who flew MIGs against Yankees; and, most especially, Kirill, the leader of Shuriks work squad, whose boundless humor, generosity, friendshipand terrible deathwill explain why Bayliss/Shurik chooses to devote whats left of his own life to humble Myshkino. By turns terrifying and moving, an observant book likely to be long remembered. -- Copyright ©1999, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
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