Excerpt from Archangel by Robert Harris, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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by Robert Harris

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  • First Published:
    Dec 1998, 373 pages
    Jan 2000, 415 pages

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"Take no notice," instructed Olga Komarova, standing up beside the driver. She tapped the side of her head. "These are crazy people. Red fascists."
"What's he saying?" demanded Duberstein, who was considered a world authority on Soviet communism even though he had never quite gotten around to learning Russian.
"He's talking about how the Hoover Institution tried to buy the Party archive for five million bucks," said Adelman. "He says we're trying to steal their history."
Duberstein sniggered. "Who'd want to steal their goddamn history?" He tapped on the window with his signet ring. "Say, isn't that a TV crew?"
The sight of a camera caused a predictable, wistful stir among the academics.
"I believe so . . ."
"How very flattering . . ."
"What's the name," said Adelman, "of the fellow who runs Aurora? Is it still the same one?" He twisted around in his seat and called up the aisle. "Fluke--you should know. What's his name? Old KGB--"
"Mamantov," said Kelso. The driver braked hard, and he had to swallow to stop himself from being sick. "Vladimir Mamantov."
"Crazy people," repeated Olga, bracing herself as they came to a stop. "I apologize on behalf of Rosarkhiv. They are not representative. Follow me, please. Ignore them."
They filed off the bus, and a television cameraman filmed them as they trudged across the asphalt forecourt, past a couple of drooping, silvery fir trees, pursued by jeers.

Fluke Kelso moved delicately at the rear of the column, nursing his hangover, holding his head at a careful angle, as if he were balancing a pitcher of water. A pimply youth in wire spectacles thrust a copy of Aurora at him, and Kelso got a quick glimpse of the front page--a cartoon caricature of Zionist conspirators and a weird cabalistic symbol that was something between a swastika and a red cross--before he rammed it back in the young man's chest. The demonstrators jeered.

A thermometer on the wall outside the entrance read minus one. The old nameplate had been taken down and a new one had been screwed in its place, but it didn't quite fit, so you could tell that the building had been renamed. It now proclaimed itself the Russian center for the preservation and study of documents relating to modern history.

Once again, Kelso lingered behind after the others had gone in, squinting at the hate-filled faces across the street. There were a lot of old men of a similar age, pinched and raw-cheeked in the cold, but Rapava wasn't among them. He turned away and moved inside, into the shadowy lobby, where he gave his coat and bag to the cloakroom attendant before passing beneath the familiar statue of Lenin toward the lecture hall.

Another day began.
There were ninety-one delegates at the symposium, and almost all of them seemed to be crowded into the small anteroom where coffee was being served. He collected his cup and lit another cigarette.
"Who's up first?" said a voice behind him. It was Adelman.
"Askenov, I think. On the microfilm project."
Adelman groaned. He was a Bostonian, in his seventies, at that twilight stage in his career when most of his life seemed to be spent in airplanes or foreign hotels: symposia, conferences, honorary degrees--Duberstein maintained that Adelman had given up pursuing history in favor of collecting air miles. But Kelso didn't begrudge him his honors. He was good. And brave. It had taken courage to write his kind of books, thirty years ago, on the Famine and the Terror, when every other useful idiot in academia was screeching for détente.

"Listen, Frank," he said. "I'm sorry about dinner."

Excerpted from Archangel by Robert Harris. Excerpted by permission of Random House, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing.

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