Monday, November 26, 2007

Simon Sebag Montefiore, Young Stalin

I read a review of Young Stalin somewhere -- maybe the Times, maybe I just saw it in the bookstore -- mentioned that it seemed like a very interesting book, and it turned up in my hands as a gift from Melissa. One of those lovely, thoughtful gestures.

There is not, though, anything lovely about Stalin's life chronicled here. While Montefiore has been criticized for romanticizing Stalin -- and there is certainly some truth to that, a result of Montefiore's style more than anything else it seems to me -- there is just something so grindingly horrific about this early life that the supposed glamor feels washed out by the brutality and callousness (in the full sense of the word) of the man and the world he lived in.

And Montefiore spares no detail. I thought Norman Sherry on Graham Greene was exhaustive.

Not sure what to make of this wave of interest in things Soviet. Sitting on my shelf not yet finished is Jochen Hellbeck's Revolution on My Mind: Writing a Diary Under Stalin. Perhaps a hang-over from the adolescent years of sheer cussedness, directed at my classmates and the world (sadly, I'm one of Ronald Reagan's babies). Or maybe it's because my grandfather, a major in the Estonian Army, died in a Siberian work/prison camp.

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