TANGLED LOYALTIES: The Life and Times of Ilya Ehrenburg by Joshua Rubenstein

TANGLED LOYALTIES: The Life and Times of Ilya Ehrenburg

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KIRKUS REVIEW

From Rubenstein (Soviet Dissidents, 1980), an admirably objective account of one of the Soviet Union's most unusual icons--Ilya Ehrenburg, a writer who not only survived the twists and turns of Kremlin politics, but also enjoyed the regard of dissidents like Nadezhda Mandelstam and Anna Akhmatova. In 1907, as a 15-year-old Moscow schoolboy responding to the prejudice he experienced as a Jew and the injustices he perceived in Russian society at large, Ehrenburg joined the Bolsheviks, along with classmate Nikolai Bukharin. Rubenstein suggests that it was the radical appeal of Bolshevism that attracted Ehrenburg, who was alienated by his father's moderate views. In and out of prison, he fled in 1908 to Paris, where he met Lenin, fathered his only child, and began to write. He returned to Russia in 1917, experienced the turmoil of the Revolution and then lived in Europe, where he wrote his first novel, Julia Jurenita, and was a correspondent for Izvestia. As Ehrenburg, who returned again to the USSR in 1940, steered a torturous passage between maintaining his integrity and surviving, he was mistrusted by both the authorities and those who considered him a Party apologist. He had no illusions about the regime, though he accepted its highest honors; a Jew, and therefore an outsider, he was also a great Russian patriot. For Rubenstein, Ehrenburg's behavior in the 1930s and late 1940s--when the writer, like so many others, was ""involved in a great conspiracy of silence""--is redeemed by his fight against Nazism and anti-Semitism, and by his efforts on behalf of dissidents. He was not ""confined by his contradictions . . . he was larger than all of them."" The story of a particular man and time, but also a finely drawn portrait of a writer and his conscience under siege in a place where the ill-chosen word could lead to exile or death.

Pub Date: Feb. 14th, 1996
ISBN: 0817309632
Page count: 496pp
Publisher: Basic