Jonathan Meades

Postmodernism in the USSR

Landscapes of Communism: A History through Buildings

By Owen Hatherley

Allen Lane 613pp £25 order from our bookshop

Here, once again, is everything his fans have come to expect from Owen Hatherley: curiosity, precision, disputatious rigour, a contempt for received ideas tempered by agnostic humility, the keenest eye, an openness to the unexpected, a phenomenal amount of knowledge and an indifference to the paltry virtue of consistency.

And here, for the first time, is a new ingredient: a woman. In these tireless reports of wandering through the cities of what was once the (notably heterogeneous) Soviet bloc, this flâneur is accompanied by Agata Pyzik, whose own book Poor but Sexy: Culture Clashes in Europe East and West, composed in English, both puts monoglots to shame and prompts a reappraisal of what the populace of those cities expected after 1989. Certain of the itineraries are determined by her and, I suspect, followed by him with an initial reluctance. We are vouchsafed glimpses of their endlessly peripatetic life together and their diet of milk bar pirozhki and architectural taxonomy. 

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