Mystery Fiction and the Spirits of CitiesnMartin Cruz Smith: Gorky Park;nRandom House; New York.nJorge Luis Borges and Adolfo Bioy-nCasares: Six Problems for Don IsidronParodi; E. P. Button; New York.nby Mary Ellen FoxnMany famous sleuths in the detectivenfiction of our century have beennassociated with cities. Not only is ancity the terrain in which they operate,nbut also the city itself is transformednfrom mere background to a vivid, integralnpart of the action. To envisionnPeter Wimsey without London, SamnSpade without San Francisco, Maigretnwithout Paris, Nero Wolfe withoutnNew York or Martin Beck withoutnStockholm is to imagine novels with entirelyndifferent kinds of heroes, plotsnand flavor.nThe hero of Gorky Park is nominallynchief homicide inspector Arkady Renko,nbut the real protagonist is Moscow.nLike Raymond Chandler’s Los Angeles,nthe Russian capital itself occupies centernstage and exerts a potent and sinisterninfluence over characters and theirnfates. The aforementioned London,nParis, San Francisco, New York andnStockholm exist in either a benign or anneutral way. Maigret’s Paris is a serenenpond of eating, drinking and other bourgeoisndelights, occasionally invaded byna turbulent crime only to return to itsnformer calm; Wolfe’s New York—actuallynArchie Goodwin’s city—is palpablynpresent with its hard-bitten policenand newspapermen and chic night spots,nbut it neither attracts nor repels.nOnly Chandler and Martin CruznSmith have created a place which doesn’tnknow its place. The very cities of LosnAngeles and Moscow undergo anthropomorphoses,nnot only acquiring per-nDr. Fox is a frequent contributor tonthese pages.nsonalities more memorable than thosenof the detectives, but ultimately transcendingnthe sleuths’ activities as primarynfocus. Philip Marlowe and ArkadynRenko are similar in that they representnthe remnants of decency in societiesnpermeated by corruption and decay.nTheirs are nightmare worlds of scoundrels,ncon men, hypocrisy and betrayal,ndiffering only in that Marlowe’s LosnAngeles is a society with too much license,nwhile Renko’s Moscow has nonenat all. The lone hero—regarded as anfoolish fanatic by his fellow citizens—nAmerican friendship while lining hisnpockets and betraying his friends. WhennRenko discovers the perpetrator of threengrisly murders, he simultaneously uncoversnthe venality and corruption ofna system where ideology is twisted andnsubverted for materialistic, dehumanizingnand ultimately murderous ends. Inna reality where “… everyone informsnright from the nursery. Everyone hasndirty hands,” Renko symbolizes the lastnvestige of integrity. He is both hero andneveryman. So the Soviet system hasnsucceeded in creating a “new man”n” ‘Gorky Park’ winds down to a rather cliched international shoot-em-up, completenwith murky speculations on the difference between American and Soviet justice . . .”n—New York Timesnholds his honor dear; it is the onlynthing that remains to humanize himnand to differentiate him from his compatriots,nall of whom have their price.nAs modern-day Don Quixotes tilting atnwindmills, Marlowe and Renko arendealt many blows, both physical andnspiritual; they end up with their illusionsnin shreds, but still each clings tonhis own knightly code of decency, loyaltynand professionalism. In societiesnwhich are “on the take,” Marlowe nevernseems to have more than |100 in thenbank, and Renko rejects the notion ofntailoring his activities to gratify the Sovietnauthorities, even though compromisingnhis principles would bring himna promotion, a better apartment, morenabundant provisions.nThe plot of Gorky Park—which isnas convoluted as most modern-daynthrillers, with double, triple and quadruplenagents—deals with the shadynreasons why the Soviet government isnprotecting the machinations of annAmerican capitalist in Russia. The lattern(many may perceive in him thenentrepreneurship of Mr. Armand Hammer,nthe notorious multimillionairenwith friendship ties to Soviet leadersnfor the last half-century) forges a Soviet-nnnafter all: “everyman” is a unique figurenthere. Values and virtues which mankindnhas cherished for millennia—suchnas honesty, loyalty, courage and evennlove—are either on the verge of extinctionnor distorted beyond recognition.nxhus the novel becomes valuablennot so much as fiction, or even as anthriller, but as yet another expose. Thenstreets, buildings and the all-pervasivenbleakness of the Soviet environmentnachieve a palpable literary presence.nMoscow becomes more than just annexotic locale, it emerges as a way ofnlife. On a day-to-day basis we can seenwhat communism does to what we usednto call the quality of life: alcoholism,nthe national sport, becomes an unalienablenright and ultimate hedonism; conjugal,nfilial and parental relationshipsnmust be subordinated to the demands ofnthe state; the accused is guilty a priorin(otherwise he wouldn’t be accused); andnfree expression of thought is as impossiblento imagine as access to unlimitednmeat and produce. From the sublimento the ridiculous, Smith underlines hisndescriptions with biting irony. Somenmight say that 1984 was a metaphorn(although we see how Orwell’s surreal-nZ7nXovember/December 1981n