As Stalin lies dying, this novel records his last thoughts, which he renders as a movie about the people he believes envenomed his life, namely, Lenin and certain women. (A film devotee, Stalin so loved movies that some scholars have even suggested that he governed the Soviet empire by cinematocracy, rule by cinema.) He has suffered a stroke but will linger for three days before dying. As in a film, he revisits scenes and old arguments with Lenin, and then endures a trial over his charge that women have poisoned his life. At the conclusion of the trial, Stalin’s mind screen returns to V.I. Lenin. What follows then is Stalin’s concluding mockery and denunciation of Lenin; Lenin’s final assessment of Stalin; and the end of the novel: Stalin’s dying words.
Paul M. Levitt, professor emeritus of English at the University of Colorado at Boulder, taught modern drama, theatre history, and the gangster novel. He has written more than twenty books (five of them novels), radio plays for the BBC, books about medicine, stories for children, and numerous scholarly and popular articles. He lives in Boulder, Colorado.