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John Tesarsch - Dinner with the Dissidents

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Dinner with the Dissidents is a brilliant literary spy thriller, which reimagines actual events surrounding Nobel laureate Alexander Solzhenitsyn and the KGB’s extraordinary attempts to silence him.

Set between 1970s Moscow and contemporary Canberra, this novel pulsates with intrigue and draws startling parallels between political machinations in the old Soviet Union and the West today.

Author John Tesarsch has long been fascinated with this era of the Soviet Union, specifically the clash of politics and the arts. More than twenty years ago he learnt about the real-life secluded dacha of Mstislav Rostropovich, the legendary cellist, where Solzhenitsyn and other notable dissidents gathered – including composer Dmitri Shostakovich and nuclear physicist Andrei Sakharov – after they had effectively been shunned by the state.

The themes of Dinner with the Dissidents are personal for Tesarsch. The music and legacy of Rostropovich and Shostakovich thrum between the lines of this novel, which is natural as the author’s first career was as a professional cellist. A lifelong interest in classical literature introduced Tesarsch to Solzhenitsyn, and his experience as a barrister sparks his desire to consider the political and legal implications of challenging the state.

Dinner with the Dissidents is a gripping portrayal of tumultuous times, and a thrilling story of love, courage and deception. Meet John in conversation with Gia Metherell, former Literary Editor of The Canberra Times.

Tickets: $12 (includes a complimentary glass of house wine or soft drink)


John Tesarsch is the author of the acclaimed novels The Philanthropist and The Last Will and Testament of Henry Hoffman. He was formerly a professional cellist in Vienna but gave up music after developing a debilitating allergy to cello rosin. He returned to Australia to study law and became a barrister, then was diagnosed with tongue cancer and was unable to speak for six months, during which time he discovered his love for writing. He lives in Melbourne where he continues to work as a barrister and lectures in law at the University of Melbourne.