I remember when Luke Harding, then The Guardian’s Moscow correspondent, was kicked out of Russia (his articles for the paper were particularly hard-hitting). I can remember reading that the officer at the airport told him, “For you, Russia is closed.” I know that Luke Harding no longer lives or works in Russia.
And yet, as in Romeo and Juliet, knowing the ending doesn’t make Mafia State, the story of how and Harding all of the above happened, any less compelling or interesting. This is, of course, largely because Harding doesn’t make his story all about him. He is a journalist, and the book is a report on Russian affairs as much as it is his personal narrative.
And, while one cannot help but notice that the book is, in some ways, already a bit outdated (it’s a book about modern Russia, but it doesn’t, and couldn’t have, included the most up to the minute modern Russia), it—that is, both the story of “how one reporter became an enemy of the brutal new Russia,” and the story of what, exactly, that brutal new Russia is—is essential reading for anyone interested in today’s (or practically today’s) Russia.