Compelling, timely extracts to spur deeper exploration.




On its 100th anniversary, a collection of brief, pointed writings from eyewitnesses to the Bolshevik Revolution.

British publisher and editor Ayrton, who has edited two previous historical collections (No Pasarán!: Writings from the Spanish Civil War, 2016, etc.), assembles another fine, readable anthology of primary sources. This one gives a solid sense of the enormous hope and ultimate disappointment that the Russian Revolution instilled in eyewitnesses, from Leon Trotsky to Theodore Dreiser. Ayrton presents these selections more or less chronologically, with a mix of foreign witnesses (e.g., H.G. Wells, John Reed, and Louise Bryant), Russian writers who stayed in the Soviet Union under increasingly dire, censorious conditions (among others, Isaac Babel and Ilya Ehrenburg), and Russian émigré writers who left before 1925, such as Teffi and Nina Berberova. Many of the selections are extracts from memoirs published later. One example is Trotsky’s My Life, in which he recounts the extraordinary moment when he announced to the Petrograd Soviet the dissolution of the provisional government; later the same evening, he and Lenin, returned from four months of exile, are resting on a makeshift pallet on the floor of an empty meeting hall, “body and soul…relaxing like over-taut strings.” Arthur Ransome’s diary entries from Six Weeks in Russia in 1919 give a good sense of the shifting precarious political winds, while, in The Russian Countess, Edith Sollohub describes the (rather lucky) help she received at the hands of her father’s former coachman, who was elevated to Communist House Commandant. Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman became bitterly disillusioned with Soviet Communism after the Kronstadt Uprising of 1921, and many writers wrestle with the new social order, such as “social realist” author Dmitry Furmanov, in his epic Chapaev. Times were rapidly changing, indeed, as delineated in popular Soviet writer Mikhail Zoshchenko’s “Electrification,” in which the fashionable illumination of Soviet Russia only seems to reveal how shabby their lives really were.

Compelling, timely extracts to spur deeper exploration.

Pub Date: Oct. 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-68177-520-3

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Pegasus

Review Posted Online: July 12, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2017

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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