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Dialectical Satire

Paul Edwards, 18 September 1986

The Madhouse 
by Alexander Zinoviev, translated by Michael Kirkwood.
Gollancz, 411 pp., £12.95, July 1986, 9780575037304
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by Nicholas Mosley.
Secker, 298 pp., £11.95, August 1986, 0 436 28853 2
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Missing Persons 
by David Cook.
Alison Press/Secker, 184 pp., £9.95, July 1986, 0 436 10675 2
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Only by Mistake 
by P.J. Kavanagh.
Calder, 158 pp., £9.95, July 1986, 0 7145 4084 6
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... paid to all philosophical argument.’ So much for dialectical materialism, a philosophy for which Alexander Zinoviev feels a professional scorn. Zinoviev’s academic speciality is logic, and his main work in that field (popularised in a forbidding volume called Logical Physics) is an analysis of the cogency and ...

Point of Principle

Michael Irwin, 2 April 1981

The Country 
by David Plante.
Gollancz, 159 pp., £6.95, March 1981, 0 575 02938 2
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The Radiant Future 
by Alexander Zinoviev, translated by Gordon Clough.
Bodley Head, 287 pp., £7.50, March 1981, 0 370 30219 2
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Farewell to Europe 
by Walter Laqueur.
Weidenfeld, 310 pp., £6.50, March 1981, 0 297 77870 6
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... steel, which originally reads: ‘Long Live Communism – The Radiant Future of All Mankind!’ Zinoviev was trained, apparently, as a Marxist philosopher, and indeed held a research appointment in the Institute of Philosophy of the Soviet Academy of Sciences. He was also a professor of Logic at the University of Moscow. After the publication in the West of ...

International Tale

John Banville, 30 March 1989

A Theft 
by Saul Bellow.
Penguin, 128 pp., £3.95, March 1989, 0 14 011969 8
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... empty sack who comes down your chimney to steal everything in the house’: or this passed on from Alexander Zinoviev commenting on glasnost and the crushing of the dissidents: ‘After you’ve gotten rid of your enemies, you’re ready to abolish capital punishment.’ As always with Bellow, the people here have a tangible presence, a thereness; one ...

Rules of the Game

Jon Elster, 22 December 1983

by Raymond Aron.
Julliard, 778 pp., frs 120, September 1983, 9782260003328
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Clausewitz: Philosopher of War 
by Raymond Aron, translated by Norman Stone and Christine Booker.
Routledge, 418 pp., £15.95, October 1983, 0 7100 9009 9
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by Michael Howard.
Oxford, 79 pp., £7.95, March 1983, 0 19 287608 2
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... their history when they cherish the Promethean illusion that they are making it’). Anticipating Alexander Zinoviev, he observed that in the Soviet Union ‘le style de la déstalinisation est resté stalinien.’ Was it just for lack of inclination that he never worked out the implications of these and similar insights? It seems more likely that he ...

Irrational Politics

Jon Elster, 21 August 1980

... Veyne’s Le Pain et le Cirque,2 an analysis of civic giving in Classical Antiquity; the second Alexander Zinoviev’s The Yawning Heights,3 a satirical and penetrating work about politics and everyday life in the Soviet Union. Veyne is, in my view, the greatest French historian now writing. I believe that his work will come to achieve the same status ...

Reinstall the Footlights

T.J. Clark: The Art of the Russian Revolution, 16 November 2017

... faces insisted on. I still think so. But I couldn’t escape my own history, and when the face of Zinoviev appeared for a minute I found myself trying, ludicrously, to read an ‘attitude’ into its sleepless and three-quarters-dead stare. I wanted then, and certainly afterwards, to forget the stare, and replace ...

Grim Eminence

Norman Stone, 10 January 1983

The Twilight of the Comintern 1930-1935 
by E.H. Carr.
Macmillan, 436 pp., £25, December 1982, 0 333 33062 5
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... mid-19th century, and the book’s centre-piece is a description of the messy love-affair between Alexander Herzen’s wife and the German revolutionary poet, Herwegh. On a first reading, the book is a brilliant performance, for it treats the affair (and other later ones) with insight and irony. On a second reading, I am not so sure of its quality. It is a ...


Alan Brien: Finding Lenin, 7 August 1986

... origins in deliberate obscurity, especially the ethnic background of his maternal grandfather, Dr Alexander Dmitrievich Blank: ‘Some maintain he was a Jew.’ And he makes the flat assertion: ‘The name of his German wife, Lenin’s maternal grandmother, is never given.’ Never is a short time in biography. The same year, on page 43 of his Life and Death ...


John Barber, 29 October 1987

Socialism, Peace and Democracy: Writings, Speeches and Reports 
by Mikhail Gorbachev.
Zwan, 210 pp., £14.95, October 1987, 1 85305 011 3
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by Zhores Medvedev.
Blackwell, 314 pp., £5.95, May 1987, 0 631 15880 4
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The Sixth Continent: Russia and Mikhail Gorbachov 
by Mark Frankland.
Hamish Hamilton, 292 pp., £12.95, June 1987, 0 241 12122 1
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Shadows and Whispers: Power Politics inside the Kremlin from Brezhnev to Gorbachev 
by Dusko Doder.
Harrap, 349 pp., £12.95, July 1987, 0 245 54577 8
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Pravda: Inside the Soviet News Machine 
by Angus Roxburgh.
Gollancz, 285 pp., £16.95, May 1987, 0 575 03734 2
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Utopia in Power: A History of the USSR from 1917 to the Present 
by Michel Heller and Aleksandr Nekrich.
Hutchinson, 877 pp., £25, August 1987, 0 09 155620 1
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... years or decades. They include Anna Akhmatova’s Rekviem (written during and about the Purges), Alexander Tvardovsky’s long-suppressed By Right of Memory, dealing with collectivisation, Anatoly Zhigulin’s cycle of poems about his time in Stalinist prisons and camps, poems by long ignored émigrés or opponents such as Nikolai Gumilyev, Georgy ...

Deaths at Two O’Clock

Sheila Fitzpatrick: Suicide in the USSR, 17 February 2011

Lost to the Collective: Suicide and the Promise of Soviet Socialism, 1921-29 
by Kenneth Pinnow.
Cornell, 276 pp., £32.95, March 2011, 978 0 8014 4766 2
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... People’s Will, the wing of the Populist revolutionary party responsible for the assassination of Alexander II in 1881 – considered the taking of another life justified insofar as they were offering up their own: a philosophy not so different from that of present-day suicide bombers, except for the fact that the Russian public, unlike the contemporary ...


Sheila Fitzpatrick: Stalin’s Origins, 1 November 2007

Young Stalin 
by Simon Sebag Montefiore.
Weidenfeld, 397 pp., £25, May 2007, 978 0 297 85068 7
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... his adjectives for a broad and disparate assembly of scholars, from Robert Tucker, Ronald Suny and Alexander Rabinowitch to Richard Pipes and Robert Conquest. His reading in secondary sources is broad, and includes s0me Russian and German. It’s a lesser work in every sense than Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar, which came out first though it deals with a ...

Could it have been different?

Eric Hobsbawm: Budapest 1956, 16 November 2006

Journey to a Revolution: A Personal Memoir and History of the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 
by Michael Korda.
HarperCollins, 221 pp., $24.95, September 2006, 0 06 077261 1
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Twelve Days: Revolution 1956 
by Victor Sebestyen.
Weidenfeld, 340 pp., £20, August 2006, 0 297 84731 7
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A Good Comrade: Janos Kadar, Communism and Hungary 
by Roger Gough.
Tauris, 323 pp., £24.50, August 2006, 1 84511 058 7
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Failed Illusions: Moscow, Washington, Budapest and the 1956 Hungarian Revolt 
by Charles Gati.
Stanford, 264 pp., £24.95, September 2006, 0 8047 5606 6
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... outside Russia in 1919 (with the enthusiastic support of the young Hungarian movie industry under Alexander Korda, Michael Korda’s uncle), the Party had been scattered and reduced by domestic repression, Stalin’s terror and its own internal quarrels, and several times had actually dissolved. Gati claims that by 1940 there were barely more than two hundred ...

Stalin at the Movies

Peter Wollen: The Red Atlantis: Communist Culture in the Absence of Communism by J. Hoberman, 25 November 1999

The Red Atlantis: Communist Culture in the Absence of Communism 
by J. Hoberman.
Temple, 315 pp., £27.95, November 1998, 1 56639 643 3
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... a New York gallery of Sots Art, an ironic appropriation of ‘socialist’ art by Vitaly Komar and Alexander Melamid, into trying to understand the deeper significance of Socialist Realism. This fascinating book swoops and lurches from topic to topic, but the reader’s feeling of disorientation is more than compensated for by the exhilaration of the ...

I sailed away with a mighty push, never to return

Sheila Fitzpatrick: Jews in the Revolution, 17 March 2005

The Jewish Century 
by Yuri Slezkine.
Princeton, 438 pp., £18.95, October 2004, 0 691 11995 3
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... involvement of young Jews in socialist and revolutionary movements. When a son was born in 1889 to Alexander Helphand (Parvus), ‘world revolutionary, international financier and future German government agent’, he announced ‘the birth of a healthy, cheerful enemy of the state’. It is often suggested that Jewish advancement in Russia was blocked by the ...

Inquisition Mode

Tariq Ali: Victor Serge’s Defective Bolshevism, 16 July 2020

Notebooks: 1936-47 
by Victor Serge, translated by Mitchell Abidor and Richard Greeman.
NYRB, 651 pp., £17.99, April 2019, 978 1 68137 270 9
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... One of his relatives, Nikolai Kibalchich, a chemist by training, had built the bomb that killed Alexander II in 1881. Along with other members of the underground anarchist group which had planned and carried out the assassination – including Sophia Perovskaya, whose father, the governor general of St Petersburg, was responsible for the tsar’s travel and ...

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