Lee Harvey Oswald’sassassination of President Kennedy in 1963 remains one of the most horrifyingand hotly debated crimes in American history. Just as perplexing as theassassination is the assassin himself; the twenty-four-year-old Oswald’s hazybackground and motivations—and his subsequent murder at the hands of JackRuby—make him an intriguing yet frustratingly enigmatic figure. Because Oswaldbriefly defected to the Soviet Union, some historians allege he was a Sovietagent. But as Peter Savodnik shows in The Interloper, Oswald’s timein the USSR reveals a stranger, more chilling story.
Oswald ventured toRussia at the age of nineteen, after a failed stint in the US Marine Corps anda childhood spent shuffling from address to address with his unstable, needymother. Like many of his generation, Oswald struggled for a sense of belongingin postwar American society, which could be materialistic, atomized, andalienating. The Soviet Union, with its promise of collectivism and camaraderie,seemed to offer an alternative. While traveling in Europe, Oswald slippedacross the Soviet border, soon settling in Minsk, where he worked at a radioand television factory. But Oswald quickly became just as disillusioned withhis adopted country as he had been with the United States. He spoke very littleRussian, had difficulty adapting to the culture of his new home, and found fewtrustworthy friends—indeed most, it became clear, were informing on him to theKGB. After nearly three years, Oswald returned to America feeling utterlydefeated and more alone than ever, and as Savodnik shows, he began to look foran outlet for his frustration and rage.
Drawing on groundbreakingresearch, including interviews with Oswald’s friends and acquaintances inRussia and the United States, The Interloper brilliantlyevokes the shattered psyche not just of Oswald himself but also of the era heso tragically defined.