Stalin’s Meteorologist: One Man’s Untold Story of Love, Life, and Death. Olivier Rolin (Penguin), translated from the French by Ros Schwartz
One fateful day in 1934, a husband arranged to meet his wife under the colonnade of the Bolshoi theatre. As she waited for him in vain, he was only a few hundred metres away, in a cell in the notorious Lubyanka prison.
Less than a year before, Alexey Wangenheim – a celebrated meteorologist – had been hailed by Stalin as a national hero. But following his sudden arrest, he was exiled to a gulag, forced to spend his remaining years on an island in the frozen north, along with thousands of other political prisoners.
By chance, Olivier Rolin discovered an album of the letters and beautiful drawings of the natural world which Alexey sent home to his wife, Varvara, and his four-year-old daughter, Eleonora. Intrigued by these images, Rolin became determined to uncover Alexey’s story and his eventual horrifying fate.
Stalin’s Meteorologist is the fascinating and deeply moving account of an innocent man and his family caught up in the brutality of Soviet paranoia, and a timely reminder of the human consequences of political extremism.
Olivier Rolin was born in Paris, and is a critically acclaimed author and freelance writer. His books have won many prizes, including the Prix du Style for Stalin’s Meteorologist in 2014.He first visited Russia, then the USSR, in 1986. Since then, he has returned many times and has travelled widely throughout the country.