Paperbacks: Gadfly in Russia, by Alan Sillitoe

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The Independent Culture

Alan Sillitoe bought a map of Stalingrad as a teenager in Nottingham, and his Russian fascination grew from there. A Soviet bestseller by 1967, he drove his long-distance runner of a Peugeot to Leningrad, and toured while making the diaries on which this humane and atmospheric memoir draws.

On later visits, he saw more of repression and dissent, but ideology matters less here than the lure of a land that "had so many good people in it".