Voroshilovgrad states the following (from the perspective of Herman, the main character):

Telephones exist for breaking all kinds of bad news. They make people sound cold and detatched. I guess it's easier to pass along bad news in an official-sounding voice. I know what I'm talking about. I've been fighting telephone receivers my whole life, albeit unsuccessfully. Operators all over the world still monitor people's conversations, jotting down the most important words and phrases. Meanwhile, psalm books and phone directories lie open on hotel nightstands; that's all you need to keep the faith.

What does he mean by this? Cell phones are in widespread use in the book's universe (he thinks that his brother didn't pick up the phone because he didn't want to pay the roaming fees due to him traveling internationally, for example, and it explicitly refers to cell phones at least once that I've seen so far), so why the reference to phone operators? And what did he mean by saying that they monitor people's conversations? Do/did operators actually do that?

1 Answer 1


Operators certainly have listened in on conversations, particularly in the days when all connections were made manually. If for no other reason that to have something to gossip about. (Especially when the operator lived in a small town and so knew everyone who was talking.)

Obviously this is much less practical, owing to automation, though it may still be feasible. It's possible that Herman is simply mistaken, being unaware of how technical changes affected it.

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