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The Commissariat of Enlightenment by Ken Kalfus
In 1910, famous Russian writer Leo Tolstoy lies dying in the remote Russian town of Astopovo. A media circus accompanies the death watch, including Nikolai Gribshin, a young filmmaker, Vorobev, a scientist who wants to embalm the body, and a young revolutionist named Stalin. The novel follows the story of Gribshin from Tolstoy's death through the Bolshevik revolution, to his role as Commissar of Enlightenment. As Commissar, Gribshin (now renamed to Astopovo) uses his knowledge of film to deliver propaganda and retell history to serve the Soviet government's needs. It's a story of the roles of lies and propaganda in government to manipulate the populace and influence culture. Salon.com says of The Commissariat of Enlightenment, "Kalfus doesn't just observe that contemporary life is dissolving into a field of flickering, substanceless projections, he asks what it is about human nature that makes us so susceptible to such mirages."