Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev signs his book in a book shop in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2012. Mikhail Gorbachev looks back at his life in his new book Alone with Myself. He talks about his young years with a remarkable candor in the book, which is full of love for his late wife. (AP Photo/Misha Japaridze)
MOSCOW (AP) — Mikhail Gorbachev says he's feeling the effects of old age, but aims to stay active as long as he can.
Speaking Tuesday at a presentation of his new book, the 81-year-old former Soviet leader said: "In the last few years I've begun to ail, and seriously. In the last five years I've had four operations."
"But I really will continue to work as long as I have the strength," he said, according to the Interfax news agency.
The book, titled "Alone With Myself," chronicles Gorbachev's life from his childhood to the 1991 demise of the Soviet Union. The book, dedicated to his late wife Raisa, is full of previously undisclosed personal details, including the story of their romance.
Raisa Gorbachev died in 1999 of leukemia.
In the book, Gorbachev describes how they first saw each other at a dancing party: "During the first meeting, she showed no interest in me. And I tried not to show that she made a huge impression on me."
During their next meeting, Raisa said she couldn't believe that Gorbachev was 20 and that he looked much older. "I reacted stupidly: I ran for my passport and showed it to her. And then I felt badly about it, ashamed before the other boys."
There also was an element of jealousy. Raisa was being courted by a young man whose affluent family was in sharp contrast with Gorbachev's peasant roots.
But Raisa's romance with the man ended after a few months when his mother disliked her at their first meeting and demanded that he rupture the link.
She and Gorbacehv started dating and married in 1953. Raisa borrowed shoes for their wedding from a friend.
He also chronicled Raisa's battle with leukemia, describing agonizing days at her bedside, and tells of the stroke she suffered when a group of hardliners briefly ousted Gorbachev during an August 1991 coup attempt.
"She lost her speech, and her right hand went numb. I remembered her eyes in these minutes, and I still see them. There was a fear and a pleading in them," he writes.
Raisa's health continued to deteriorate after that.