I chose this title, or, rather, it presented itself to me, the way these things do, early in the writing of the book. There are the obvious associations – the family’s journey, from their homeland into enemy country, along unfamiliar paths leading to unknown destinations, moving, by whatever means, to the next stop.
It refers to actual roads, of dust and stone and asphalt, grassy forest paths and railroad tracks. But also to metaphorical ones, progressing toward self-knowledge, compassion; traversing the torment of guilt toward the promise of joy. Roads to love, and to death.
Behind all that, for me, there was a song.
My father was a factory worker; he spent his days assembling machinery, reading blueprints drawn by other hands not, to his infinite regret, his own. He was well-liked, a quiet, deep-thinking yet sociable and witty man. Gradually, as the effect of the war years receded, he filled our home with books, and with music. His vast record collection encompassed opera and spoken word (I will never forget how the elephant got his trunk), and stacks upon stacks of folk songs. These ranged from romantic renditions of Soviet recording stars to the virile sound of the Red Army Chorus and the defiant protest songs of Bulat Okudzhava and Volodya Vysotsky.
When I started work on Roads, these songs, this soundtrack to my life, were always with me. One in particular, Dorogi, played in my mind again and again, bringing with it a sense of history, and more levels of meaning than I can begin to describe.