The Archivist's Story
By Travis Holland
Completed July 23, 2007
In the late 1930’s, Joseph Stalin orchestrated The Great Purge in the Soviet Union. At a time of tremendous government paranoia, many Russian writers and poets were executed for the benefit of “the party.” This is the setting for Travis Holland’s first book, The Archivist’s Story.
The main character, Pavel, is an archivist at a Soviet prison that detains the ill-fated Russian writers. Pavel’s job is to collect the “evidence” against the writer and archive his writings until a time when Pavel’s superiors ordered that the writer’s works be burned in an incinerator. As a former literature teacher, watching the writers’ imprisonment and the destruction of their works was almost too much for Pavel to bear. Upon discovering an unpublished manuscript of famed Russian writer Isaac Babel before his imprisonment, the archivist makes a split- second decision to smuggle the manuscript to his apartment - a crime punishable by death. At any moment, Pavel expects to be arrested for his crime. Paranoia becomes a lifestyle for this lover of Russian literature.
If this story isn’t exhilarating enough, Pavel is also dealing with the increasing memory loss of his mother, the possible imprisonment of two close friends and the investigation of his wife’s death. The story takes many twists and turns, leaving you hanging on until the very last page.
Travis Holland’s freshman effort is a good one. I was on pins and needles with every knock on Pavel’s door, every slamming car door and every conversation he had with Soviet soldiers. I would recommend The Archivist’s Story to readers of Russian literature or historical fiction – or to anyone who wants to appreciate the freedom of writing and reading great works of literature. ( )