Winner of the 2014 Prix du Style“Rolin proves to be a comforting and companionable guide to a gruesome period of history . . . Stalin’s Meteorologist serves two functions: for readers to pay tribute to the victims by bearing witness to their oppressor’s crimes, and to understand the measures dictators take to silence their enemies, even a devoted husband and father with his head in the clouds.” —Los Angeles Times In 1934, the highly respected head of the Soviet Union’s meteorology department, Alexey Feodosievich Wangenheim, was suddenly arrested without cause and sentenced to a gulag. Less than a year after being hailed by Stalin as a national hero, he ended up with thousands of other “political prisoners” in a camp on the Solovetsky Islands. He was violently executed in 1937–a fact kept from his family for nearly twenty years. Stalin’s Meteorologist casts light on the devastating consequences of politically inspired paranoia and the mindlessness and trauma of totalitarianism–relevant revelations for our time. Olivier Rolin masterfully weaves together Alexey’s story and his eventual fate, drawing on an archive of letters and delicate drawings of the natural world that Wangenheim sent to his family from prison.
One Man's Untold Story of Love, Life, and Death
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OLIVIER ROLIN's three books have all been critically acclaimed and have won prizes in France: Port Sudan won the Prix Femina in 1994, Paper Tiger won the 2003 Prix France Culture, and The Meteorologist was awarded the Prix du Style in 2014.
ROS SCHWARTZ is an English literary translator, who translates Francophone literature into English. In 2009 she was awarded the Chevalier d'Honneur dans l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres for her services to French literature.
A Most Anticipated Book of 2018 (The Millions) "Rolin's writing is haunting, poetic." --The Washington Post "Rolin proves to be a comforting and companionable guide to a gruesome period of history. Although the past he takes us through is irredeemably bloodthirsty, he confidently leads us back to the present, a seeker of light in a world of uncompromising bleakness . . . [Stalin's Meteorologist] serves two functions: for readers to pay tribute to the victims by bearing witness to their oppressor's crimes, and to understand the measures dictators take to silence their enemies, even a devoted husband and father with his head in the clouds." --Los Angeles Times "Olivier Rolin's new biography, Stalin's Meteorologist: One Man's Untold Story of Love, Life, and Death, is one of tragedy, but also of resilience--the kind that allows a sensitivity and love for the wonders and mysteries of nature to survive the most oppressive, cruel circumstances." --Atlas Obscura "Masterful . . . An eloquent addition to a violent episode in the history of science in the twentieth century." --Nature "Although Stalin once had a casual job monitoring rainfall in his native Georgia, that didn't save the weatherman, who was exiled to the country's first gulag in the White Sea. Decades later, Olivier Rolin visited the island's 15th-century monastery and found letters that Wangenheim had written for his wife and small daughter. Intrigued by the delicate drawings of animals and plants, Rolin uncovers an all too familiar, yet heartbreaking, story" --The Guardian "A powerful and important book." --Victor Sebestyen, The Mail on Sunday "This outstanding book captures both the beauty and resilience of human nature, while also documenting its most heinous side. Winner of the English PEN award, it is immaculately researched and written . . . compassionately and with insight." --The Lady, Book of the Week "Timely and well-researched, the book is a reminder of the real, human cost of blind loyalty to totalitarian political ideologies. A movingly illuminating biography." --Kirkus Reviews