From an interview with Brent Ghelfi, author of the forthcoming Volk's Game:
PC: When did you first become interested in Russia?Read the entire interview.
BG: Russia first hit my radar screen in high school (late-seventies) when I read War and Peace. I started reading the other great Russian writers and, for the first time, read excerpts from Solzhenitsyn's The Gulag Archipelago. Around this time I also read his classic One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. I think this short novel captures prison life during those years better than anything else I've read. The name Volkovoy comes from a character (a prison guard) in that book. I first visited Russia in the mid-eighties while still a student. My overwhelming impression of the country then was the color gray. Foreboding buildings, pale citizens in dark clothes, musty hallways, a shared bathroom with standing water covering the tiled floor, vinegary food. The world was changing, but we certainly didn't know it, and I don't think the people we came into contact with had any idea either. I suspect the fanciful notion that the Soviet Union would dissolve within a decade would have seemed absurd to nearly everyone in Moscow at the time, including me.