A second-rate Russian writer passes off an unpublished manuscript as his own, and rises to the summit of Soviet society.
Turgenovsky’s literary aspirations far outweigh his talents. When arrested with a group of student friends, he’s drawn into revolutionary circles more through chance than conviction, and starts to have an unwitting impact on the earth-shattering events taking place around him.
During the Civil War, he denounces an unpublished author, steals his manuscript, and becomes the country’s premier socialist writer.
When another version of the stolen novel surfaces, Turgenovsky battles to keep his reputation intact. With much connivance he manages to distance himself from such claims, and is eventually awarded the Nobel Prize.
In later years, he realizes what he’s missed out on as an artist, and starts to write an epic novel to cement a far more legitimate legacy. It’s a huge failure. Love poems for his wife found after his death - like Pasternak’s Zhivago – prove to be the only thing of literary merit he ever produced, providing him with partial redemption.
The novel satirizes the delusional foundations of a totalitarian regime. It is about a mediocre man – like so many others - who flourishes in a society which claims to eradicate inequality, but only succeeds in propagating it to new and untold heights.