The death of a Russian medical researcher in 1982 went unnoticed by the wider world. Leonid Tsypkin had published papers in scientific journals in the USSR and abroad, before being demoted from his job at a prestigious scientific institute in Moscow when his son emigrated to America and then dismissed when the last of his own applications for an exit visa was rejected. He was sacked on March 15. Within five days, aged fifty-six, he suffered a fatal heart attack at his home – just another dead Jewish refusenik, soon to be forgotten by all but family and friends. Except that, on March 13, the first instalment of a novel Tsypkin had smuggled to the USA was printed in a New York magazine for Russian émigrés. Five years later, the novel was published in English for the first time by Quartet Books. Even so, it made relatively little impact and Tsypkin seemed destined to slip back into obscurity. Then, in 1991, the American writer and critic Susan Sontag came across the book in ‘a bin of
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