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I would like to know what "as soon as you can" means in the following sentences:

‘I know you are not in the Party,’ he said, his voice barely more than a whisper, ‘and it’s too late to join now anyway. Even if you wanted to.’ He lowered his eyes, maybe embarrassed by what he was about to propose. ‘But maybe you know someone, Ludwik? Someone you forgot to mention and who could help tip the balance in your favour?’

His gaze on me was suddenly like yours the night of the party: expectant, too much so. I sat still, entrenched in silence.

Finally, he nodded, visibly awkward. ‘Think about it. Maybe someone will come to mind. It would be a pity for you to miss this opportunity.’

It almost seemed that if I didn’t acknowledge this moment, it wouldn’t be true. I remained silent.

The professor stood, attempted a smile. ‘Let me know as soon as you can, will you?’

I managed to rise, to nod into space. We shook hands, mine limp, his far too big, and a moment later I was standing in the corridor with oblivious strangers hurrying past me in all directions.

In this novel which is set in the 1980's in Poland under the socialist regime, where homosexuality was socially unacceptable, the protagonist Ludwik left Poland in 1981 to live in the United States of America. And he remembers what it was like back then in Poland, where he applied for a doctorate but got his proposal rejected because he lacked "contacts." So his professor, when delivering the bad news, asked whether he had some acquaintance (of power, perhaps) who could support Ludwik before the final decision regarding the doctorate is announced.

In this part, I wonder whether it would be right to understand that "as soon as you can" here means that Ludwik should contact his professor as soon as he remembered/came up with any names or acquaintances, or it is just a general statement which does not imply Ludwik remembering acquaintances.

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The professor wants Ludwik to provide the name of a friend with influence, whose reputation and connections might help Ludwik's case. I am not sure if he is truly asking this to help Ludwik, as he implies, or as some sort of trap. The way he is hesitant and says "Maybe someone will come to mind" suggest to me that he has an answer that he thinks Ludwik should give, but he is unwilling to say the name himself. However, I am not sure about that. In any case, when he says "Let me know as soon as you can", the professor is urging Ludwik to provide the name of a friend with influence quickly.

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