Rudolf Maier, a young microbiologist working on a plague vaccine, is summoned to Moscow to deliver a progress report to his superiors. Inadvertently, he carries the virus with him from the lab. When his illness is discovered, the state machinery turns with terrifying efficiency, rounding up dozens of people. But for many, the distinction between this enforced, life-sparing isolation and the constant churn of political surveillance and arrests is barely detectable, and personal tragedy is not completely averted.
Based on real events in the Stalinist Russia of the 1930s, this gripping novel, written in the late 1970s and rediscovered by the author during lockdown – and never before translated into English – surfaces uncomfortable truths about the current Russian regime and the pandemic crisis. Includes a new preface by the author.