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About the book
  • Published: 1 January 2012
  • ISBN: 9780099461647
  • Imprint: Vintage
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 320
  • RRP: $32.99

Engineers Of The Soul

In the Footsteps of Stalin’s Writers

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A brilliant fusion of travel writing and Soviet history which reads like Bruce Chatwin

Engineers of the Soul draws the reader into the wild euphoria of the Russian Revolution, as art and reality are bent to radically new purposes. Writers of renown, described by Stalin as ‘engineers of the soul’, were encouraged to sing the praises of construction. But the initial enthusiasm of Soviet writers faltered as these colossal structures led to slavery and destruction, and they were obliged to labour on in the service of a deluded totalitarian society.
Frank Westerman sweeps the reader along to the dramatic final confrontation between writers and engineers that signalled the end of the Soviet empire.

  • Pub date: 1 January 2012
  • ISBN: 9780099461647
  • Imprint: Vintage
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 320
  • RRP: $32.99

About the Author

Frank Westerman

Frank Westerman was born in 1964 and lives in Amsterdam. He is the author of seven highly acclaimed books, including Ararat, Engineers of the Soul and, most recently, Brother Mendel’s Perfect Horse. His work has been published in more than fifteen languages and has won many prizes.

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Praise for Engineers Of The Soul

“A compelling combination of literary criticism and travelogue”

Scotland on Sunday

“Westerman is a very fine writer and his stories, characters and digressions are as delicately wrought as a watch mechanism. Like Bruce Chatwin and the Polish journalist Ryszard Kapuscinski, he has elevated the authorial journalist-traveller into a brilliant, magic storyteller; like them he seeks out the smaller, human-sized epics that play out their tragedies against the backdrop of history”

Sunday Times

“Westerman completes a portrait at once engaging and devastating. As such, it comes closer than any conventional literary history to defining the elusive Socialist Realism.”


“An extraordinarily compelling, imaginative and subtle mixture of history, literary criticism and travelogue”

History Today

“Brilliant, illuminating and rich”

Literary Review

“The fate of Soviet writers under Stalin is movingly explored in this outstanding mix of travel book and literary study, which has about it more than a hint of Bruce Chatwin”

Sunday Times

“Westerman merges investigative journalism, literary history and travel writing as he journeys across modern Russia to look at the legacy of literature under the Soviet Union... intriguing”

Big Issue

“As he travels around the former-USSR talking to ordinary Russians and visiting landmarks of the Soviet era, Dutch author and journalist Frank Westerman tells the story of authors like Pasternak and Gorky, the latter considered so important to the cause, Stalin launched an undercover operation to bring him back to Russia”

Glasgow Herald

“Winding his way along numerous interconnected lines of inquiry, Westerman engages the reader with ease in the surprise and satisfactions of his fascinating, often tragic, discoveries about broken human lives, forgotten books and films, a nd places the desert has reclaimed”

Times Literary Supplement

“Highly recommended...to wrestle travelogue, literary biography, social history and bad communist cinema into such a readable tale is a triumph”

Brian Schofield, Sunday Times

“While western studies have tended to focus on books that were clandestine, banned, confiscated or smuggled out of the USSR, Westerman... is more interested in the works of converts, hangers-on, backsliders and doubters. Who'd have thought a literary history of hydraulics would be so readable?”


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