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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Yeltsin Hustles To Print Memoirs

NEW YORK -- Less than a month after ceding power, Boris Yeltsin is preparing to publish his memoirs of two tumultuous terms as president of Russia with a new American publisher that has offered the enticement of speed rather than an outsize advance.

With a handshake at his villa outside Moscow, Yeltsin, 69, agreed last month to publish his memoirs, tentatively titled "Midnight Diaries," with the co-writer from his previous two books, Valentin Yumashev, a former magazine journalist who was a chief of staff in Yeltsin's administration. The book is scheduled to appear in stores in October.

The deal was a coup for the 2-year-old publisher PublicAffairs, which was the only American company considered by Yeltsin's London-based literary agent, Andrew Nurnberg, who shunned the traditional ritual of courting the richest publishers for the most generous advance. In October, Nurnberg approached Peter Osnos, the publisher of PublicAffairs, with a proposal, and a few months later Osnos, who is fluent in Russian, was flying to Moscow to meet with Yeltsin.

"Time is of the essence for a memoir of this kind," Nurnberg said. "This is not going to be a long, portentous philosophical tract. This is going to be a personal, vivid account told from the heart about his recent years in office, trials and tribulations, the disappointments. And that should be published as soon as possible.

"Why? It was Harold Wilson, the British prime minister, who once said that 'a week in politics is a long time.' The publishing industry has seen to it, regrettably over the years, that if they leave political memoirs too long in the making the sales are very much lower."

Nurnberg and Osnos would not reveal the amount of Yeltsin's advance, although Nurnberg said it was significant. Nurnberg retained the power to sell the foreign rights to the book, which are considered likely to generate more income than Yeltsin would earn from his American sales.

Osnos, who was a foreign correspondent in the Soviet Union for The Washington Post before becoming an editor at Random House, edited Yeltsin's last book, "The Struggle for Russia," which was published in 1993 by Times Books, then an imprint of Random House.

Osnos left Random House to found PublicAffairs, which specializes in nonfiction titles that the company can publish quickly.

For example, PublicAffairs produced copies of the Starr report, about President Bill Clinton's relationship with Monica Lewinsky, hours after it became available. It also published a title by the international financier George Soros after he abandoned a slower-moving publisher.

Yeltsin is expected to provide a much more personal account in this memoir than he did in his previous books, written when he was constrained by his political positions. The book grows out of late-night conversations between Yeltsin and Yumashev while he was in power.

"He intends to talk about everything, including the allegations of corruption," Osnos said, adding that Yeltsin envisioned a book that he described as being "fresh like a great meal so it should make people want more."

Osnos said: "It's very clear that it's not meant to be some theoretical tract, but a personal account of these first two terms in Russian democracy. And he clearly wants to tell that story in a very personal way."

That means Yeltsin will also explore the dramas in his recent political career, from the conflict in Chechnya to his health problems.

Are these health problems behind the rush to publish Yeltsin's memoirs? Nurnberg and Osnos said Yeltsin appears to be thriving since leaving office.

"I see Yeltsin regularly, two or three times a year," Nurnberg said.

"He was doing quite poorly in the autumn, but when I saw him the other day he literally looked like a man with a weight that had been lifted from his shoulders.

"He was energetic, joking all the while and very, very spirited. His health has been a problem, a considerable problem."