Title: The Fall of a Titan
Author: Igor Gouzenko
Gouzenko, Igor (1954). The Fall of a Titan. New York, Norton
Date Posted: December 30, 2016
This has a double claim to special notice, the quality of the book, and the identity of the author, the “cipher clerk” who broke with the Soviet in 1945 and turned over the documentary evidence contributing to the breaking of Canada’s spy ring. Inevitably, one feels that in depicting Novikov, a scholar who molded himself into a “Soviet man”, he has tapped his own knowledge of the techniques used to break down a man’s resistance, to destroy his moral sense, to corrupt wholly. This figure is set in opposition to the “titan”, Mikhail Gorin, a giant literary figure (based, the publishers indicate, on Maxim Gorki), recalled by Stalin to add to the propaganda publishing of the state which he had helped, in earlier years, bring into being. It is a fascinating and horrifying story, with intricate subplots involving insatiable lust for power, petty jockeying for position, ruthless elimination of all who differ from authority, and elimination of any independence even in affairs of the heart. Novikov, really in love with Gorin’s daughter, Nina, is instructed to forget it and turn elsewhere; then when his marriage to Lida brings her momentary happiness, that too is negated by her father’s arrest as “enemy of the people”. The book builds up to an inevitable climax of disaster, as Gorin forcibly recognizes the position into which he has been tricked — and Novikov descends to the depths of infamy. But the final note is one of faint hope, that there is still the spark of faith in man. The story has the sweep and power of Russian classical literature, and despite its length, is a holding and moving reading experience from start to finish. Summer Book-of-the-Month.