Lehrjahre of the Scientist as a Young Man

1964 - 1972

Instructed by lions…

… the nerd-musketeers are ready to attack a field of turnips

The lions are now guarding a 5-star hotel

..and the lion school is history

My contribution to this book, published in 2013, can be read here (in Russian)

The full book online is here (my stories are on pp. 95-103)

Higher education: how to prank your classmates

Thinking up other merry pranks

Summer break: kayaking with a flower girl

The goal of education: a small collection of bling


Celebrated spy-thriller author John le Carré chose  my college as the alma mater of a Russian dissident genius in his novel “The Russia House” later made into a major movie with A-list stars. Here is how he explained his choice in an email exchange with me.

(I wondered who the Russian friend advising him on this point might have been, but le Carré remained mum on the question.)

From: John le Carré (info@johnlecarre.com)

Sent: Thu 5/21/09 6:27 AM

To: ysomin@hotmail.com

Dear Yefim Somin

I simply asked a Russian friend for a good middle-ranking technical
college, rather than an obvious ivy-league one, and the LITMO was what he
came up with. Simple as that! Sorry I can’t supply a more interesting
answer, but thanks a lot for taking such a close interest in my work.

John le Carré.

—– Original Message —–
From: <ysomin@hotmail.com>
To: <info@johnlecarre.com>
Sent: Tuesday, May 19, 2009 9:06 PM
Subject: Enquiry from the John le Carre website

> Dear Mr. le Carré,
> I have wanted to ask you about one specific choice you made in The
> Russia House. It has taken me a while to realize that I could probably
> ask you on the internet, and I hope you will kindly respond to this
> inquiry. The Russian genius “Goethe/Dante” is an alumnus of LITMO, a
> technical school in Leningrad. As an alumnus of that university
> myself, very likely contemporaneously with “Dante”, I certainly got a
> kick out of seeing Michelle Pfeiffer explain to Sean Connery how to
> decipher the name of my alma mater. This is also something I like to
> mention when people ask me about my higher education. While reading
> the book I was impressed, among other things, with the quality of
> research of the environment details, such as specific routes of public
> transportation. But that is your usual trademark. I was somewhat
> puzzled, however, by your choice of LITMO. While it is a respectable
> technical college, probably more so now than in the past, it was not
> one of the top star schools in the Soviet Union. Thus I wonder what
> motivated you to select this particular background for your
> character.
> Thank you very much for your time.
> Fondest regards,
> Yefim Somin

Michelle Pfeiffer explains to Sean Connery what LITMO stands for