This is a remarkable book, painstakingly researched. Intriguingly, it amounts effectively to a book within a book. So exhaustive have the author’s researches been that it seems unlikely that there is anything left to discover about its protagonist, save some withheld material lodged in FSB (formerly KGB) files in Moscow. A thin strain of biographical information lies buried within a vast and discursive congeries of ancillary information, relevant and (all too often) otherwise.
Cy (for Ysai) Oggins was born in 1898 to immigrant Russian Jewish parents in the provincial town of Willimantic, New England. His parents’ industry established them as a securely middle-class family, respected in the community. Cy proved himself sufficiently academically talented to enrol at Columbia University, where he