Moscow, 1939. In the recesses of the infamous Lubyanka prison, a young archivist is sent to authenticate an unsigned story confiscated from one of the many political prisoners there. The writer is Isaac Babel. The great author of Red Cavalry is spending his last days forbidden to write, his final manuscripts consigned to the archivist, Pavel Dubrov, who will ultimately be charged with destroying them. The emotional jolt of meeting Babel face-to-face leads to a reckless decision: he will save the last stories of the author he reveres, whatever the cost.
From the margins of history, Travis Holland has woven a tale of the greatest power. Pavel’s private act of courage in the face of a vast bureaucracy of evil invigorates a life that had lost its meaning, even as it guarantees his almost certain undoing. A story of suspense, courage, and unexpected avenues of grace, The Archivist’s Story is ultimately an enduring tribute to the written word.
About the Author
Travis Holland's stories have appeared in Glimmer Train, Five Points, and Ploughshares. He is the recipient of two Hopwood Awards, and holds an MFA from the University of Michigan. He lives in Michigan. This is his first novel.
“Travis Holland writes exquisitely. The Archivist’s Story is that very rare book, a historical novel that makes us forget ‘historical’ and remember only ‘novel’, even as we take in hard historical fact— the archivist Pavel living in the midst of Stalin’s purges, could be any of us, and Holland conveys his world in indelible images. The beauty and reality of this novel linger long after one has read—reluctantly—the last page.”—Elizabeth Kostova, author of The Historian
“A quietly miraculous book—uncannily persuasive in its rendering of a distant time and place, and deeply moving in its evocation of lives caught in the jaws of history. It's common to welcome a debut novel as "promising.” This book is a promise perfectly and profoundly kept,; its author one to read now and into the future.”—Peter Ho Davies, author of The Welsh Girl
“A historical novel of subtle power and tremendous grace.”—Kirkus Reviews, starred review
“There is a quiet authenticity about Holland’s writing that draws you in, and soon you will find yourself sitting on the edge of your seat, silently cheering for his characters. Readers will want to hear more from the author of this heartbreaking and haunting work.”—Library Journal, starred review