In 1975, the KGB summoned Vladi­mir Voinovich to a meeting. The Russian novelist had just completed “The Life and Extraordinary Adventures of Private Ivan Chonkin,” a World War II satire that the New York Times would later praise as “a masterpiece” and “the Soviet ‘Catch-22,’ as written by a latter-day Gogol.”

Yet the book was outlawed in the Soviet Union, where Mr. Voinovich had been blacklisted after criticizing state censorship and defending dissidents such as novelist Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and physicist Andrei Sakharov. Booted from the Union of Soviet Writers, he was technically unemployed, leading one KGB agent to ask how, exactly, he was still going about his work.

“I explained that I write a few pages and then I hide them,” Mr. Voinovich later told the Times. “Then I write a few more and hide those, too. That is my general method.”


Vladimir Voinovich, 1932-2018, Russian, writer, poet