In this episode of The Archive Project, Amor Towles discusses his celebrated second novel, A Gentleman in Moscow, in front of a live audience in Portland, Oregon. In the talk, Towles shares the creative origins of the novel and treats the listener to a lively lesson on Russian history and, in particular, the history of the landmark Metropol Hotel. A Gentleman in Moscow begins in 1922, when Count Alexander Rostov is deemed an unrepentant aristocrat by a Bolshevik tribunal, and is sentenced to house arrest in the Metropol, a grand hotel across the street from the Kremlin. Rostov, an indomitable man of erudition and wit, has never worked a day in his life, and must now live in an attic room while some of the most tumultuous decades in Russian history are unfolding outside the hotel’s doors. It is at once a romance, a socioeconomic commentary, a history of Russia from the Bolshevik Revolution to the Cold War, a rumination on the meaning of family and home, and an exploration of the power of literature.
Born and raised in the Boston area, Amor Towles graduated from Yale University and received an MA in English from Stanford University. His first novel, Rules of Civility, published in 2011, was a New York Times bestseller and was named by The Wall Street Journal as one of the best books of 2011. His second novel, A Gentleman in Moscow, published in 2016, was also a New York Times bestseller and was named as one of the best books of 2016 by the Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, The Philadelphia Inquirer, the San Francisco Chronicle, and NPR. His work has been translated into more than thirty-five languages. Having worked as an investment professional for more than twenty years, Mr. Towles now devotes himself full time to writing in Manhattan, where he lives with his wife and two children.