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By Peter Maurice, Crisis Magazine, March 26, 2020
Peter Maurice, a native of New Orleans, is a retired teacher of French, English, and humanities, all levels from elementary through university. ….
In classic Russian fiction the writer often conceals the exact location and even the name of a character. In any story by Chekov or Dostoyevsky, you run across memes like this: It so happened last autumn that an officer on leave, Captain N., missed his footing while stepping off the train in the town of Z.
This obfuscation might be just a tip of the hat to literary convention, but it could also serve prudence, especially in a roman à clef when the persona might be traced to a person. Czarist Russia—and later the USSR with that wolfish ferocity characteristic of communist states—relied on the secret police. If a poor Captain N. raised the suspicion of the Czar’s Okhrana, he could forget about that next promotion; should he irk the KGB, he could spend the rest of his abbreviated life on ice in the Gulag Archipelago. Then as now, the deep state “had twenty ways from Sunday of getting back at you.”
Following the Russian mode, let me say that one Sunday after Mass in the provincial town of B., Father K. was guilty of a politically incorrect quip. ….