The Book of the Week is “Parting With Illusions” by Vladimir Pozner, published in 1990. This is the autobiography of an American Soviet, and vice versa.
Born in April 1934 in Paris, Pozner lived most of his life in the former Soviet Union but spent his early childhood in the United States. He attended City and Country grammar school in New York City. In the 1940’s, the school’s caring teachers taught hands-on trades such as printing, woodworking, ceramics, retailing and post-office management– and their history. At Stuyvesant high school, indifferent teachers marginalized Pozner in his forty-student classes.
Both Pozner’s parents were film-industry workers. His father was a high executive, and Soviet citizen. His mother was French. His much younger brother was born in the United States. In 1948, the family was faced with the option of moving to France without the father, or moving all together to the USSR, or staying in America, where they would be harassed unmercifully because their head of household was a Communist. A job was supposedly waiting in Moscow for him, but they ended up staying in Berlin for four years first.
In the immediate postwar years, there was extensive capital flight and brain drain going from East Germany to West Germany. Pozner attended a school that taught him the Russian language. Writing exercises consisted of robotic transcribing of verbatim material from a textbook or teacher; he was supposed to “…walk the mental straight and narrow, never digressing, never introducing any of your own ideas.”
In his career in the 1950’s through the 1980’s as a print and radio journalist in the USSR, because he was speaking to foreign audiences, Pozner was allowed to cover whichever topics he wanted to– but he still refrained from discussing certain subjects for fear of rocking the boat. However, when it is one’s daily job to be a propagandist, sooner or later, he is going to say what he really feels and get in trouble. Unless he’s a pathological liar. Even in the United States.
Read the book to learn of the author’s experiences as a pro-Soviet, pro-Communist, pro-Socialist journalist, translator, and Jew, radio commentator, etc.