Banned in Belarus two days after it was published, Paranoia is a thriller, a love story, and a harrowing journey into one of the world's last closed societies. The book never mentions Belarus or its capital, Minsk, but the setting is unmistakable. In his tragicomic prefatory remarks, author Victor Martinovich all but acknowledges the inevitable comparison: ""There is no more need to invent `1984': just look around."" The state has so penetrated all areas of life-scrutinising even errant scraps of paper and utterances between lovers-that he must ""enjoin readers not to read this book."" But for those who do, Paranoia is a timeless story of doomed romance between a young man, Anatoly, and a mysterious young woman he notices at a cafe. Their whirlwind romance draws Anatoly into a world of privilege and danger, as he discovers that the third party in their love triangle is the omnipotent and omniscient head of state security. A heart-pounding tale of love, murder, and betrayal, Paranoia will appeal to fans of political thrillers. It also offers insight into the frightful workings of a contemporary totalitarian state. Historian Timothy Snyder's helpful foreword makes explicit, for interested readers, the parallels between politics in Belarus and the rest of the Eastern European region.
Victor Martinovich is a deputy editor of BelGazeta, a Belarusian weekly newspaper, and the dean of the Faculty of Politics at the European Humanities University, a Belarusian institution closed by the authorities in 2004 and now based in Vilnius, Lithuania. Diane Nemec Ignashev is Class of 1941 Professor of Russian and the Liberal Arts at Carleton College in Minnesota and the translator of No Love Without Poetry: The Memoirs of Marina Tsvetaeva's Daughter by Ariadna Efron (Northwestern, 2009).