Four Hundred Bones reveals in fascinating detail the infiltration of Stalinist doctrine into academia in Romania, a country where its consequences were particularly punitive. Set in 1949, the novel’s action revolves around the medical school in Bucharest where the protagonist, Peter, a young lab technician struggles to maintain the teachings of his former professors in the face of pressure from the encroaching Communist regime.

Stalin is on a mission to found a new science of medicine as part of what would become the first in a series of five-year plans. Intellectuals—especially those associated with scientific theory and education—are considered a menace to the Soviets since they typically are of bourgeois background with a pro western orientation and education. In Stalin’s eyes, they could question his policies and thus become traitors.

To him, the threat is real. “Western Imperialist Enemy Science” must be abolished.

“I wanted to give a voice to those who can no longer speak.”

— Ada Nicolescu