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Revealing The Fringes Of Paris: Benoît Fougeirol’s Award Winning Book Zus

Special To Topanga Journal

The photographer of the award winning book Zus is Benoît Fougeirol. He is based in and around Paris. Zus was published by X Artists’ Books. The publishing company is a collaboration between actor and writer Keanu Reeves, Los Angeles-based artist and writer Alexandra Grant, designer Jessica Fleischmann and editor Florence Grant. X Artists’ Books is an independent publisher, versus a self publisher, or vanity press. The books coming out of this little press are of value and on engaging subjects.

Kriss Perras headshot by Alan Weissman

By Kriss Perras

Zus documents, via a sociological photographic essay, sensitive suburban zones, or ZUS, a French acronym for Les Zone urbaine sensible. These forgotten pockets are located on the peripheries of the major metropolis of Paris, France. The ZUS are documented on the book’s cover by what appear to be mere confetti dots. These fringe districts were defined by administrative boundaries brought about by the “emergence of a social problem,” reports X Artists’ Books.

Fougeirol’s. “realistic approach allowed the viewer to explore these territories…through his photographs without a judgmental, hierarchical or authoritarian point of view.”   ADAGP Jury

With the help of security, Fougeirol photographed these marginalized areas sometimes in wide aerial shots showing what appear to be successful housing zones and in other shots close details depicting the decay and frailty of the projects’ failures. The honest and shocking photos are of walled in housing units that seem to be of buildings that were previously architecturally beautiful. Once beyond the walls, we see doors with faded paint that appear permanently jarred open. Tastefully designed staircases are fenced in with wired gates. In another disconcerting visual, the ZUS are laid out like war zone maps inside the book. The photos portray an innate sadness, a sense society is tearing a certain segment of people apart from the main group and setting them into a fringe society. Zus is a photojournalistic investigation into these areas that makes the viewer wince, if you care at all about people.

According to writer and professor Jean-Christophe Bailly, whose essay accompanies Fougeirol’s images: “We [were] not expecting so much immobility, or such ruins. Strangely, and as if by a flourish of tragic irony, this emptiness of space brings to mind the Ideal City in Urbino. There, too, the anonymous painter omitted all human figures. But where the imaginary scene from the Quattrocento was offered as the theatre of an existence yet to come, the images of the real city, the images of the ZUS, come across as decaying segments of a bygone existence: ‘people lived here.'”

Zus was nominated for the 2018 Les Prix du Livre at Arles. Zus recently won the Third Edition of the 2018 ADAGP Revelation Artists Book Award. This was part of MAD (Multiple Art Days), France’s national association of graphic and fine artists (Société des Auteurs dans les Arts graphiques et plastiques). June marked the month where 20 artists’ books were selected for consideration for the ADAGP Revelation Artists’ Book Award, which would also be exhibited during the fair. It was announced September 13 that Fougeirol had won the ADAGP Revelation Artists Book Award. 

The ADAGP jury stated Zus had, “renewed the approach to how the [Parisian] banlieues are represented.” The jury also stated Fougeirol’s. “realistic approach allowed the viewer to explore these territories…through his photographs without a judgmental, hierarchical or authoritarian point of view. The open configuration of the edition itself is free to be explored and leads to a sense of discovery of places so radically determined by their architecture they are almost impossible to access in real life. (Zus) is an edition to read, to leaf through, to unfold, to display, in short, to discover even while it captures the volatility of the ZUS.” 

The limited edition of Zus is in the collections of the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Bibliothèque Kandinsky, Centre Georges Pompidou and the Bibliothèque d’Art et d’Archéologie, Genève. The limited edition sold for $900 each, and as of the writing of this article is sold out. 

The paperback edition of Zus is 9 ½ × 12 inches and 375 pages. It can be purchased from X Artist’ Books for $60.


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Nazi Hunting: The History Of Topanga Journal Part II

Special To Topanga Journal

In May 1942 Hugh Harlan launched Topanga’s first newspaper, the Topanga Journal. As a project of the New Deal’s Newspaper Writers Project, the weekly newspaper joined other area publications to employ unemployed L.A. writers. Mechanically, like an old Model T Ford climbing to the top of the S-curves in the Santa Monica Mountains, the Topanga Journal labored dutifully. 

Kriss Perras headshot by Alan Weissman

By Kriss Perras

As supervisor of the Federal Writers Project in Los Angeles as early as 1937, Harlan’s tenure as editor and publisher of the Topanga Journal revealed a tendency to take advantage of a federal program while publicly denouncing it. Even though the newspaper was a direct beneficiary of a politically and economically progressive program, neither its text nor cartoons reflected such politics. The front pages from 1942 through 1945, in particular, displayed editorial cartoons highly critical of the Works Progress Administration (WPA), labor, and the New Deal. Harlan’s decision to publish such cartoons belied his willingness to pay himself from WPA funds, which were sufficient to cover the cost of his $100,000 Topanga home (adjusted for inflation, that’s an approximate $1.4-million home today). 

“Do not let any calamity-howling executive with an income of $1,000 a day, … tell you … a wage of $11 a week is going to have a disastrous effect on all American industry.” President Roosevelt

Harlan earned like a criminal while he mocked Roosevelt, publishing Nate Collier’s critical cartoons. One, titled “Loaded Logic,” showed a worker swinging an ax toward the head of an upper-class business owner who held a newspaper that read “Wage Increase” as he sat at a desk, his title enshrined on a plaque that read “Labor Board.” Another showed a cook with a chef’s hat labeled “Organized Labor.” With one hand he stirred an overflowing pot of prices, while with the other he poured from a bucket labeled “Blanket Wage Increases.” Behind him stands a woman wearing a skirt labeled O.P.A., for the Office of Price Administration, which had been formed to control inflation and stabilize prices after the outbreak of WWII. Titled “What’s Cookin’?,” the cartoon blamed inflation on organized labor’s push for a living wage. Harlan consistently fought for policies that would keep wages low for the American worker.

Troops fighting three fascist dictators made $50 per month in 1944. Common laborers in large cities made 70.7 cents per hour. The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA), the country’s first minimum wage law, had set the minimum wage at 25 cents per hour and a maximum work week at 44 hours. The night before signing the bill, President Roosevelt said in his radio fireside chat, “Do not let any calamity-howling executive with an income of $1,000 a day, … tell you … a wage of $11 a week is going to have a disastrous effect on all American industry.” 

In published editorials, Harlan bashed the New Deal, while he accepted money for his role as head of the Federal Writers Project. Known to fight against censorship in a union-like battle inside of the Writers Project, he nevertheless continued to publish cartoons critical of union organizing for those very rights.

His duplicitous behavior begs the question, was Harlan a job creator or a WPA leach? In respect to his own newspaper, Harlan makes no bylines in Topanga Journal. He has only two attributions on the masthead: one as editor and publisher, and one for his wife, Virley Harlan, as Women’s Department editor. There are scant existing sources on Harlan’s work on the Federal Writers Project and the Newspaper Writers Project. 

Critical of Roosevelt and his New Deal, the Topanga Journal was also notable for its silence on the brutal dictators of WWII. Not until October 27, 1944, was there any mention of Hitler, and this came in the form of a front-page cartoon where Hitler is depicted as the face of a carved pumpkin. The caption reads, “with apologies to all pumpkins.”

Why would a newspaper so critical of President Roosevelt and his policies not cover his death or the major events of WWII, such as the dropping of the atomic bombs or the discovery of the Nazi death camps? 

“Many newspapers printed stories about the Holocaust, but they put them in the back of the newspaper not in the front,” said Steven J. Ross, a history professor and author of Hitler in Los Angeles: How Jews Foiled Nazi Plots Against Hollywood and America. “I would imagine a local newspaper like this just wouldn’t deal with it at all. You can find stuff in the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times, but it’s not going to be on the front page. If you wanted to know about the Holocaust, and you were willing to look hard, you could find information, but it wasn’t easy to find information.”

In the San Fernando Valley Oral History Project of California State University, Northridge, Virley Harlan said that she and Hugh had founded Topanga Journal to “help get [the] word out to those who were afraid during the war effort.” Yet there’s no mention of Hitler or Hirohito until 1944. And although there were ubiquitous mentions of war bonds and stamp drives for the war effort, the editorial content barely covered the war.

Meanwhile by 1944, one of Harlan’s fellow Topangans, John Schmidt, and his wife, Alice, had developed a skill in uncovering Nazi activities  in Topanga. Ten years prior, Schmidt had identified several dozen local Nazis, calling them out  in the Los Angeles Superior Court before Judge Guy Bush in the case of Otto Deissler et al. v. Max E. Socha. That case centered on sedition charges against the defendants. Known for his willingness to testify in 1934, Schmidt then was subpoenaed to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) in Washington, DC, as a star witness in 1944’s Great Sedition Trial, which had some of the same characters as the Superior Court Case. However, he never made it there. Twenty days before he was to testify in a sedition proceeding against several well-known Nazis, he died mysteriously. He had gone out to eat on a Friday, fallen ill, and perished of suspected poisoning the next Monday. Yet the Topanga Journal remained silent on Schmidt’s subpoena and on his mysterious death. 

HUAC’s Great Sedition Trial indicted 30 suspected Nazis. The 1943 indictment accused them of many acts of sedition, declaring that by pamphlets, books, and circulars they had sought since 1940 to spread word that democracy was decadent; a Nazi or fascist form of government should be established; and a Nazi revolution was inevitable in the United States. Other seditious ideas promoted in their publications were that the major political parties, Congress, and public officials were “controlled by Communists, international Jews and plutocrats,” and that the United States had deliberately provoked war with the Axis nations, which sought only to live in peace with the rest of the world. 

The Nazis against whom Schmidt was set to testify were part of a three-year plot to incite mutiny in the armed forces, unseat the government, and establish a Nazi regime. They included Reverend Gerald Winrod, a far-right Kansas evangelist who secretly worked with the Third Reich’s Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda; Elizabeth Dilling, a Nazi propagandist from Chicago, author of The Red Network, and a member of a Nazi Legal Defense Fund; Robert Noble, an organizer of the L.A. Nazi group Friends of Progress (FOP), had been described by the Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle in 1944 as a “silver tongued orator from California”; and Ellis O. Jones, another FOP organizer.

“Pro-Nazis, fascists and American Firsters were meeting before Pearl Harbor in Topanga in people’s homes in secret cells,” said Professor Ross. “John Schmidt, who is one of the heroes of my book …  was living up in Topanga. He wrote [to an acquaintance] that in fact they were meeting up there. That Nazis, people from the German American Bund, were organizing. Those who felt similar about Jews, Communists, blacks and Catholics, were meeting in Topanga to plot against the Roosevelt Administration.”

Was Harlan acquainted with these cells? His publication record hints at a connection. He published anti-semitic images, as shown by the Collier cartoon here titled “The Man Who Came for Dinner,” which appeared on May 26, 1944. What appears to be a bearded Roosevelt sits in his wheelchair reading a book titled “How To Take Over Everything,” while the people peeping over his shoulder are captioned “Industry,” “Free Enterprise,” and “John Q. Public.” Such imagery reflects the conspiracy theory that Jews seek global dominance and ongoing profit from the financing of wars.

In an editorial on October 27, 1944, titled “The New Deal Smear Sheet,” Harlan calls all of Hollywood reds, pinks, and Communists. This is several years before the McCarthy Era and the Hollywood Ten. 

“It was common for Republicans, particularly, to call Hollywood pinks, reds, and Communists,” said Professor Ross. “They were doing that in the ’30’s.” Harlan’s rant was triggered after all Topanga residents received a copy of the Free Press newspaper, a publication of the Hollywood Democratic Committee. Harlan, being a hard-right Republican, smeared the Democrats and     played their policy like a baller, all the while saying they were using smear tactics against him. He wrote that the Free Press was one of the New Deal’s smear sheets. “It stinks,” he opined.

One of the first recorded uses of the pejorative term pinko appeared in Time Magazine in 1925. It was used to describe a person who had left-leaning political sensibilities. Derogatory terms like pink parlor or pinks and reds all implied a lack of allegiance to the United States, but right-wingers used the terms to refer to supporters of Roosevelt and the New Deal.

Harlan and Collier were anti-semitic in the same tone as a good portion of the nation at the time. Despite the major investments in fighting Nazism   fighting anti-semitism abroad—e.g., $86,000 per smoke screen and $55,000 per anti-aircraft gun—it was acceptable to use pejorative terms against a hard-left-leaning thinker and call him a pinko even though the Communists were our ally against Hitler, who was killing Jews   and others by the millions. Communists, however, had been demonized in the U.S. since shortly after WWI. The secret Nazi cells in Topanga prior to and during WWII discovered by Captain John Schmidt and his wife Alice were more socially acceptable than being a Communist. Americans were dying fighting Nazis, and yet it was socially acceptable to be one and publish anti-semitic material on a weekly basis here in the United States. 

SEPTEMBER ISSUE: We will have an in-depth article on Captain John and Alice Schmidt and their efforts to stop the secret Nazi cells here in Topanga. 


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The Brooklyn Crime Scene by Alix Lambert

35. lecture - Walker in orange jumpsuit
Kriss Perras, Publisher & Editor Malibu Arts Journal

By Kriss Perras

Known partly for her works The Mark of Cain and The Silencing, both published by Viggo Mortensen’s Perceval Press, and her work on the social justice theme of non-fiction crime, Alix Lambert is now hard at work on a graphic novel on the Brooklyn crime scene, a book title of the same name. Through this effort she’s bringing back the art of the courtroom sketch artist. In this Q&A we find out what daily life is like within the criminal justice system.

“I think the courtroom is a fascinating portrait of our community.”


TJ: These are scenes from criminal courtroom trials. Why did you decide to complete such a dark graphic novel?

LAMBERT: I’ve done a lot of work around the world of non-fiction crime. My background is in the fine arts, theater and interdisciplinary arts. I think the courtroom is a fascinating portrait of our community. They’re open to our community. They don’t allow cameras, and so we have a situation where you have politics and theater and law and writing and everything that interests me is all in this one room. You can come and sit and listen to what’s going on that you’re probably not paying attention to. I’m actually surprised that more people don’t do it, because it is this resource and this transparency that we have that I think is important that we’re seeing corroded. When you just kind of wander in there everyday, it’s not about one specific case. It’s more about a pastiche portrait of crime in the Supreme Court criminal system. I think in that way you’re sitting in on cases that aren’t getting any attention. It’s not like it’s the Michael Jackson case or something. This is the guy who lives two blocks away from you who stabbed somebody during a pool game that you never read about, but the details of that are very illuminating. I’m somebody who likes to listen to people’s stories.

TJ: What happens when you go in a courtroom to do this? Take us through a typical day of sketching.

LAMBERT: The Brooklyn Criminal Supreme Court is on Jay Street in Brooklyn. It’s within walking distance of where I live. You can go in and go up to the clerk and say what cases are available and open? Then they have a calendar, a list. You can actually go online and see what court cases are available, see the docket. Then you need the judge’s permission. I’ve never had a judge turn me down. They just want to know why you’re in their courtroom. Then you draw. I think they start at 8 or 9 in the morning. They take a lunch break like everybody else. I often talk to the judge. The other people who are there are the family members of the defendant or the prosecuting side, so they’re all talking freely.

TJ: While you’re there, do they get emotional?

LAMBERT: Yeah, they have opinions. Jury selection is fascination to me. You’re paying attention to a lot of different personalities. You see how complicated it is. Also what kinds of things are influencing. The abilities of a lawyer. It’s everything. The person who tells the best story wins that case. It has very little to do with the facts, necessarily. It’s often like this lawyer is really falling down. The most recent one I was sitting in, the judge was clearly annoyed by the prosecuting lawyer and kept criticizing. The judge was asking him if he was going to submit a video tape into consideration as evidence. The lawyer kept talking about “my client wants me to.” The judge was saying “well you’re a lawyer, you’re supposed to be representing the best interests of your client and not just doing exactly what they’re telling you to do, because he may not know whether it is good to submit the video or not.” The lawyer kept doubling down. By the end of this back and forth, they had sent the jury out of the room. The judge was now annoyed with the prosecuting team. I wasn’t there for the ruling on the case but just that irritability, you could see it was going to influence the jury, it was going to influence the judge, it was going to influence everybody. I don’t know what happened in the case, but the lawyer himself was annoying the judge. Also all the surrounding details that you’re not going to find in books or movies. While you’re on the elevator, the button to close the doors is disabled on all of those elevators, because defendants or criminals trying to run out of there and get out of the building and shut the door while people are chasing them. All of the garbage cans are bolted to the floor. All of this stuff that you don’t even see is in the service of impending chaos at any moment in this building. That’s interesting to me. You’re on the elevator and everybody else on the elevator is a judge or a lawyer or a defendant. They’re all talking. They’re talking pretty freely because for some reason I think in elevators and cars you think you’re in some kind of privacy, but you’re not. All of that is very interesting to me, all of the aspects of the social, what it says about our criminal justice system which is in my mind a reflection of our society at large.

TJ: Does the criminal ever watch you when you’re sketching that person?

LAMBERT: Usually the people who asks me about the sketches are the legal teams. What’s are you doing? We’d like to see it. They’re very sweet. They’re interested in the drawings. They want to see what they look like. I think the defendant is usually in more of a controlled situation. They’re not free to go around and talk to you the way a judge or lawyer or officer of the court has come up and said, “Can I see what you’re drawing?”

TJ: Do they ever threaten you?

LAMBERT: No, no, no. It is a dying art, but there are still courtroom artists who do it for a living depending on the state and whether they admit cameras or not. It’s not a secret subterfuge or something. I tell them exactly what I’m doing. I say I‘m working on a graphic novel. I’m not being dishonest about what I’m doing in there. They seem very excited about it. Actually the last judge I talked to has a collection of courtroom drawings. He said next time you come I’ll show you the drawings. They’re from a famous artist. I have one drawing from Honore Daumier who is a great French courtroom sketch artist. That tradition is interesting to me. Also the standpoint of drawing from a utilitarian artistic expression, that it’s actually still used in this way, that it has a utility, that it’s not decorative.

TJ: Is it a dying off art or is it…?

LAMBERT: It’s dying off because as you’ve seen from recent famous criminal cases, it’s up to the judge. Are we going to admit cameras into the courtroom? The minute cameras are in there, you don’t really need the sketch artist. It’s dying off in that way. It’s rare. It’s certainly rare that anyone would make a living off of it anymore. People still do it. You still see them in the papers.

TJ: How do you choose which crimes to sketch?

LAMBERT: I really don’t. I really go to the courthouse, and I sit in on whatever case is open. That’s important to me that I’m not actually selecting. I want to see what is happening. You’re in one day a domestic violence case another day you know. That way you really see what is showing up as opposed to intentionally trying to preselect a case that may or may not be the most reflective of everything around you.

TJ: How is the book going to be published?

LAMBERT: There will be a limited edition that’s all lithographic prints. That will be a shorter but a finer production of maybe 24 pages. That will be put out by World House Editions this October. There will be an unlimited edition which will have much more information in it. It will be a regular book. That will be put out by Hat and Beard Press a few months later.


World House Editions:

Hat And Beard Press:

Alix Lambert: @lixilamb

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Real Warriors For Freedom: The Silencing By Alix Lambert

Special To Topanga Journal

If you’re looking for answers to senseless death, then this book about journalist-cide will disappoint you. The Silencing, by Alix Lambert and published by Viggo Mortensen’s Perceval Press, is about stores of real warriors for freedom. The pages are eulogies about loved ones and read as though you’re listening in on a private conversation between an immediate family member and mourners at a funeral. The black and white photos are not gruesome faces frozen in death. Rather they are empty sets where the scene of a murder played out some time ago. You can’t help but reach to the page, trailing your fingers over the images like you would a corpse at a funeral, to find closure somehow in the touch. The photos feel gritty like the gristle of death. They’re surreal, at once other worldly yet grotesque with the incomprehensible pain of a government sponsored murder.

Kriss Perras headshot by Alan Weissman

By Kriss Perras

The Silencing
The Silencing by Alix Lambert published by Perceval Press

Each of the six stories is very personal, the writer confounded by the loss yet determined to make sense of it all. One such story Lambert tells us is about Paul Klebnikov, Russian born but an American investigative journalist who was shot ten times in Moscow, gunned down by Schechin automatic pistols just outside his workplace. The two men who shot him drove off in a car with tinted windows as Paul was attended to on the street by his close colleague, Sasha Gordeyev of Newsweek Russia. Paul told Sasha he had trouble breathing but to let his family know he’d be OK. He died in an elevator in a hospital. Paul’s story is told by his brother Peter and begins with a tale about two brothers when they were kids in Albany playing a game about Native Americans. The two murderers escaped to the Middle East after a trial that was conducted for show only.

“If you’re looking for answers to senseless death, then this book about journalist-cide will disappoint you.” Kriss Perras

Paul’s story is one of the six journalists, not all of whom even have this much information to bring back to their families. The only common thread for these fallen journalistic heroes is they each spoke the truth, so much so that Moscow took notice and whacked them Mafia-style to send a message to other journalists. If you report the truth, you will die.

Alix Lambert interviewed with this magazine. Lambert is articulate, compassionate and driven to expose the denial of freedom of the press in Russia through these six stories. The following is a Q&A with the author and Photogrpaher, Alix Lambert on her new book, The Silencing.

PERRAS: How did this book project come about? Was it always a Perceval project?

LAMBERT: I made a documentary in the Russian prisons in 2000 called the Mark of Cain. When I was working on that film, which was a very difficult shot, Peter Klebnikov was very supportive. He and his brother, Paul, gave me their apartment in Moscow to live in and were supportive in other ways as well. I have always believed in the importance of a free press and have done a few other pieces on the subject. When Paul was killed, I was shocked. Originally I proposed the project somewhere else and was told they would run it – but they did not. Viggo really did save the day, not only by publishing it, but by allowing me and encouraging me to make the book I wanted to make which is a true gift he gives the artists and authors he works with.

PERRAS: Tell us the story of Anna Politkovskaya’s death, the actual way she died?

LAMBERT: The details of Anna’s death are not all known beyond what is in the book. The photographs of the elevator shaft where she died is definitely where she was killed. And when I was there taking pictures no one would go in with me. Fear of surveillance. I think her son speaks eloquently about what she was reporting on, her passion for her work and family. And the chapter heading gives the facts as to weapon, location, age, etc.

PERRAS: The photos in the book actually feel gritty, like the grit of death. Was it a conscious decision to make the photos in the book physically feel gritty and text feel silky?

LAMBERT: Yes, I wanted very much for the photographs to tell a story of their own. A different story than that of the interviews. A peak into a world without journalists or free press. I wanted always for them to be in black and white, and I wanted the feeling of the places holding memory within them. I tried to achieve that.

PERRAS: Why is the subject of freedom of the press so important to you in connection to Russia?

LAMBERT: I think the subject of press freedom is important to me worldwide. I chose Russia to illustrate that importance for two reasons. First, because Russia is one of the top three places in the world where this problem is at its worst, and if you exclude the war zones it moves even upward. The second reason is because I had a personal connection. I always think the way to tell a bigger story is through a smaller more personal one.

PERRAS: Part of the appeal of the book seems to be not just a juxtaposition of Russia to the United States, but also a parable. Do you think the subject of Panfilov’s section about state controlled media is applicable to the United Staes and not just Russia?

LAMBERT: I have watched the loss of press freedom in the United States with great dismay. I interviewed my dear friend Leroy Sievers, Executive Producer for Nightline for many years, on the death of news a few years back for LA Weekly. We do not have the same problem of murdering journalists, but certainly we’re facing serious problems in this country as to the state of our “news” – I think it’s an amazing time we find ourselves in when the best television news is on the comedy channel, Stephen Colbert, Jon Stewart. I think people are not paying attention and one day they will be sorry they didn’t.

PERRAS: Some feel we’re still or already in another Cold War with Russia. Do you think your book touches on this subject with ideas mentioned such as Milosevic not being mentioned in Yugoslavia reports and NATO atrocities were the focus of much Russia journalistic attention?

LAMBERT: I wanted to focus mainly on the press freedom issue. There are endless issues in any country that can be explored. I was hoping the interviews would illuminate some the wonderful aspects of Russia, and I think they did.

Anna Politkovskaya was killed October 9, 2006 in an elevator shaft with a plastic 9mm Makarov pistol whip reporting on the Chechen conflict. She was 48 years old. The status of her murder is still unsolved. Her story is told by her son, Ilya.

The Silencing is available from Perceval Press:



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