“[It’s] been my pleasure reading and re-reading it over the past months … A terrific, compelling story … No matter where you end up you never really escape Russia … Not a mystery novel per se, but it manages to carry a sense of mystery over more than a hundred thousand words, and that is called Art.”
– Ken Alexander, freelance editor
In 1931, apprehensive about her return to the Soviet Union, Marina Tsvetayeva wrote from Paris to a friend, “Here I am unnecessary. There I am impossible.” She did return in 1939. Betrayed by her husband, ignored by her friends, caught up in the Stalinist nightmare, she was dead within two years.
Four decades later, Artyom (Art) Laukhin, a Soviet poet famous worldwide but no longer able to publish in his own country, made the opposite—westward—journey. He sent ahead of him the journal his father had kept between the mid nineteen-thirties and the late nineteen-fifties. A writer of popular spy stories much enjoyed by Stalin himself, Pavel Laukhin had been in the middle of the Soviet literary life and had kept a secret journal.
A Question of Return opens in 1985, in Toronto, where the poet has been working toward transforming his father’s notebooks into a publishable literary journal. He is revising and linking all Tsvetayeva-related stories in the journal into a narration about the poetess.
The novel also takes up a love affair between Pavel and Audrey Millay who works for an art gallery owner who is a son of a White Russian émigré, the possibility that this gallery is an outlet for KGB confiscated Soviet art, the world of émigré artists with their backstabbing, pettiness, envy, failures, envy and their obsessions with their memories of the past.
A novel with huge themes, precise and well-crafted characters, a deep sensitivity to the past and the present and the strange encounters between the two.
Robert Carr was born in Bucharest, Romania and fled from the Communist regime at the age of twenty-four. He moved from France to Israel and then settled in Canada. After working as an engineer in the aerospace industry, Carr transitioned to being a full time writer. His first novel, Continuums was published by Mosaic Press in 2008.