An innocent abroad: a Dutch tour operator in 1980s Russia

‘One morning in late October 1988,’ begins The Long Song of Tchaikovsky Street, ‘this dapper-looking guy from Leiden asked me if I might be able to deliver 7,000-odd Bibles to the Soviet Union.’ It’s the kind of line you might hear in a bar when you accidentally catch the eye of the resident storyteller — a tale so implausible it could just be true. Where on the scale between fact and fiction Pieter Waterdrinker’s memoir lies is impossible to tell, and beside the point: his engrossing 400-page account of post-Soviet disorder grips you and doesn’t let go. We meet the author — who may be the successful Dutch novelist himself,