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Orlando Figes - Bio

Orlando Figes is Professor of History at Birkbeck College, University of London. Born in London in 1959, he graduated with a Double-Starred First from Cambridge University, where he was a Lecturer in History and Fellow of Trinity College from 1984 to 1999. He is the author of seven books on Russian history, including A People's Tragedy: The Russian Revolution, 1891-1924, which in 1997 received the Wolfson Prize, the NCR Book Award, the W.H. Smith Literary Award, the Longman/History Today Book Prize and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. Natasha's Dance: A Cultural History of Russia (2002) was short-listed for the Samuel Johnson Prize and the Duff Cooper Prize. The Whisperers: Private Life in Stalin's Russia (2007) was shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize, the Ondaatje Prize, the Prix Médicis and the Premio Roma. His agent is Rogers, Coleridge and White. His books have been translated into 27 languages. He is a regular contributor to the New York Review of Books.

Orlando Figes's latest book is Just Send Me Word: A True Story of Love and Survival in the Gulag.

Just Send Me Word is a true love story based on 1,246 letters smuggled in and out of the Pechora labour camp between 1946 and 1955. The letters were exchanged between Lev Mishchenko, a prisoner in Pechora, and Svetlana Ivanova, his girlfriend in Moscow. Just Send Me Word is available on Amazon.

Praise for Just Send Me Word:

"This powerful narrative by a distinguished historian will take its place not just in history but in literature" (Robert Massie)

"A poignant record illuminating the experiences of the millions who suffered untold miseries in Stalin's grinding system of repression - and throughout the history of Russia as a whole. But, more than anything, this is a book about love ... as fascinating and inspiring as it is heartbreaking; a unique contribution to Gulag scholarship as well as a study of the universal power of love, as relevant now as it was then. It is impossible to read without shedding tears" (Simon Sebag Montefiore, Financial Times)

"Electrifying, passionate, devoted, despairing, exhilarating ... a tale of hope, resilience, grit and love" (The Times)

"Remarkable ... moving... possesses extraordinary value ... a notable contribution to Gulag literature" (Max Hastings, Sunday Times)

"Immensely touching ... [a] heartening gem of a book" (Anna Reid Literary Review)

"The remarkable true story of a love affair between two Soviet citizens ... as much a literary challenge as a historical one: the book can be read as a non-fiction novel" (Telegraph)

"Figes has achieved something extraordinary ... the gulag story lacks individuals for us to sympathise with: a Primo Levi, an Anne Frank or even an Oskar Schindler. Just Send Me Word may well be the book to change that ... the kind of love that most of us can only dream of" (Oliver Bullough, Independent)

"It is hard to imagine a more heartening story of love, courage and endurance ... a fascinating historical record but also a wonderful love story" (Express)

"Figes sustains the reader's interest by showing how life and love continued to flourish within the space not occupied by the Stalinist state ... Just Send Me Word is a rich evocation of the experience of daily life inside and outside the Gulag, as well as a moving love story" (Wendy Slater, Times Literary Supplement)

"Remarkable ... Figes, selecting and then interpreting this mass of letters, makes them tell two kinds of story. The first is a uniquely detailed narrative of the gulag, of the callous, slatternly universe which consumed millions of lives ... The second is about two people determined not to lose each other " (Neal Ascherson, Guardian)

"A quiet, moving and memorable account of life in a totalitarian state ... The book often reads like a novel ... captivating" (Evening Standard)

"[Figes] is, as always, a skilled and compelling storyteller, here smoothly combining extracts and summaries of the letters, archive documents and later oral testimony ... into a dramatic and sometimes breathless narrative of love conquering all ... extraordinary" (Polly Jones, Times Higher Education)

"Orlando Figes has wrought something beautiful from dark times" (Ian Thomson, Observer)

"This account of life under Stalin's Terror is unique, not just because it is an uplifting love story, but also because of the way, against all odds, that it came to be published" (Victor Sebestyen, Mail on Sunday)

"A heart-rending record of extraordinary human endurance" (Kirkus Reviews)

"[A] remarkable tale of love and devotion during the worst years of the USSR ... [Figes's] fine narrative pacing enhances this moving, memorable story" (Publishers Weekly)

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