LENIN by Alan Brien
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Huge, vivid, top-flight life of Lenin that spreads Lenin's bounding spirit against 733 pages of velvet prose. British columnist-correspondent-critic Brien tells the story via Lenin's diary--begun in his 16th year at the death of his father in remote Simbirsk and ending after his victory, strokes, and retirement in Moscow, with his last words being taken down ""slurred and broken from my lips, like vomit from an empty stomach."" Lenin's father was a silent revolutionary, allowing himself to pass on to his children only some rebellious little ditties that he would sing to them in the woods where they might not be overheard. Meanwhile, Lenin's older brother Alexander, a biologist, joined a student group set on blowing up the Tsar--for which Alexander was hung. His death cast a shadow over Lenin's own legal studies in Kazan, and his university career was cut short by his joining an innocuous group of students who happened to come from the same area. He got his degree independently in Petersburg, but was the worst of lawyers, losing his every case. His head full of revolution, Lenin's heart was icy, and he welcomed the deaths of peasants during famine as a bellwether of sacrifices to come. We follow his exile to Siberia, allegiance to socialist groups in London, the splitting of the Mensheviks from Lenin's Bolsheviks, his years in Switzerland during WW I and the incandescence of his anti-imperialism, his arrival in Sweden at the outbreak of the October Revolution and later celebrated flight from Petersburg to Finland, his return with the triumph of the Bolsheviks, the split with Kerensky, his deep disillusionment with Stalin's bullying, and the gradual breakdown of his health. Throughout, a very human genius crystallizes his ideas and becomes a supremely compelling force, all the while observing those about him with the metaphorical grasp of a poet (a peasant has ""big, girlish, boiled-egg eyes, and an elastic mouth that could have swallowed my arm up to the elbow""). Richly absorbing, deserves wide readership.

Pub Date: June 30th, 1988
Publisher: Morrow