This 1987 novel by Nobel Prize-winner Claude Simon is a sardonic look at glasnost Russia, where recent reforms and improvements carry all the conviction of rouge on a corpse. The narrator is one of fifteen international guests who have been invited on a goodwill tour of the new Soviet Union. Whisked from one staged event to another, from Moscow to Central Asia, enduring hours of rigid Soviet hospitality, the guests react with varying degrees of stupefaction and disgust to a society whose recent renovations ill-disguise a bloody and repressive past.
The Invitation is a reminder that although the Cold War may be over, the past cannot and should not be forgotten; the Soviets have a new game to play—diplomacy rather than military force—but Simon voices skepticism in our current era of pro-Soviet sentiment.
The chief attraction of The Invitation is Simon’s celebrated style: long, convoluted sentences register the narrator’s impressions, sometimes dragging with fatigue, but always sharpened with sensuous details and spiked with mordant satire. No one is named, but the reader will see through their identities as easily as the narrator sees through the sham of perestroika. This compact masterpiece of political satire concludes with an afterword by Lois Oppenheim, a noted authority on Simon’s work.