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Reports from the gulag

Martin Amis's new novel is brilliant and insightful, but offers little news to those versed in the 20th century's first-hand accounts of atrocity

By Tom Chatfield   November 2006

House of Meetings by Martin Amis (Jonathan Cape, £15.99)

In 2002, Martin Amis gave us Koba the Dread, a non-fictional account of Stalin’s Russia which was slated by, among others, Orlando Figes and Christopher Hitchens for its strategy of personalisation: Amis’s insistent relation of the Soviet experiment and its horrors to his own life. “I find myself embarrassed almost every day,” Hitchens commented, “at the thought of an actual gulag survivor reading this… and finding his or her experience reduced to a sub-Leavisite boys’ tiff.” Four years later, in House of Meetings, Amis has gone one step further and himself…

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