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John Updike says his new novel about a post-apocalyptic America was influenced by the real-life collapse of the communist bloc.

"That something as apparently formidable and unified as the Soviet Union could splinter like that showed it could even happen to the United States," he said in a recent interview. "I think we take the United States of America for granted as a perennial entity."

In "Toward the End of Time," Updike imagines the country in 2020, devastated by a nuclear war with China. Government has collapsed, and the Midwest is a radioactive wasteland.

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