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The Snow Violin

Michel Louyot; Catherine Cauvin-Higgins (Translator)

Translated by Catherine Cauvin-Higgins and published in June 2014 by Leaky Boot Press.


In a Moscow prison cell, Vladimir Ippolitovich Vetrov awaits his execution. A cockroach keeps him company, along with a pestering voice accusing him of being a traitor to the Party, the Motherland and the People — for having succumbed to the delusions of the West, to the sirens of Paris, and to the importance of discourse. As the process of awaiting death unfolds, nothing happens in the cell, but what takes place inside Vetrov’s mind is the intimate and merciless assessment of the man who wanted to destabilize the totalitarian regime of the USSR — and who will answer for it — as he considers his current predicament and his former, deeply-held convictions.

In 1985, Russian double agent, Vladimir Vetrov, who delivered to French secret services an impressive quantity of key documents about KGB infiltration activities in the West, was executed by firing squad. His extraordinary destiny captured Michel Louyot’s imagination. This spellbinding text is not a biographical novel, but an attempt to understand the personal drama that unfolded a few hours before Vetrov’s death. It is a condensed and poetic story that takes the reader inside the psyche of a man whose political ideals were shattered when he realized the monstrosity of the system he was defending. More than paying homage to unsung heroes, this text is a denunciation of all totalitarian ideologies.

About the author

Michel Louyot began his career as a professor of literature in Moselle and over more than thirty years has worked in central and eastern Europe and Japan in various positions including cultural attaché and advisor. Gentle humour and poetic prose pervade his novels which include Roumanie, Lorraine (nominated for the 1988 Prix Goncourt), La Main aux algues (nominated for the 1992 Prix Goncourt), La Lettre de Corée, Nuit de Meuse and Mémoires d’un chapeau. He has also published books of short stories, poetry and non-fiction as well as contributing to many print and online periodicals.