Koba the Dread

Koba the Dread

Laughter and the Twenty Million

Book - 2003
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"KOBA THE DREAD is the successor to Martin Amis's celebrated memoir, EXPERIENCE. It is largely political (while remaining personal). It addresses itself to the central lacuna of twentieth century thought- the indulgence of communism by intellectuals of the West. In between the personal beginning and the personal ending, Amis gives us perhaps the best one hundred pages ever written about Stalin- Koba the Dread, losif the Terrible. The author's father, Kingsley Amis, though later reactionary in tendency, was a Comintern dogsbody (as he would come to put it) from 1941 to 1956. His second-closest, and then his closest friend (after the death of the poet Philip Larkin), was Robert Conquest, a leading Sovietologist, whose book of 1968, The Great Terror, was second only to Solzhenitsyn's The Gulag Archipelago in undermining the USSR. Amis's remarkable memoir explores these connections. Stalin said that the death of one person was tragic, the death of millions a mere statistic. KOBA THE DREAD, during whose course the author absorbs a particular, a familial death, is a rebuttal of Stalin's aphorism."
Publisher: Toronto : Vintage Canada, 2003, c2002
ISBN: 9780099438021
Characteristics: viii, 306 p. : ill


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a book this important, formidable, and prescient, should be available in 'book form.' I'm sorry, I know 'should haves are shit,' but I think this is so, and I do think Madame Bovary is one of the best novels ever, but do we really need that many versions? Yer on the catalog; check it out.

Oct 16, 2012

'Not sure I'd call this a "brilliant weave" of political, personal and other remarks about Stalin, although it's certainly a valuable compendium of the hell Stalin turned his country into – as well as of the disputes about Stalin between Amis's father Kingsley and Robert Conquest, between Nabokov and Wilson, about the intransigence of Hobsbawm, the unrepentant Brit Stalinist historian, the gruesome literature on the matter and its authors, including much detail on what the Soviets bore with under this unintelligent yet canny, evil man, etc. In fact, Amis's writing renders these very personal monologues on the issues quite readable, despite the book's rather arbitrary organization. Still, if you're after the main issues and historical causes, the struggles with which Stalin had to contend at various times, and other traditional matters about the 'history' involved, go elsewhere. Most astonishing to me about Amis (and others on this subject) is the apparent blind spot to how Stalin and his henchmen were absolute tyrants (of a very perverse order) running a 2-tiered society with far more in common with Tsarist Russia than anything dreamed up or intended by Marx as a communist state. The Cold War was indeed fought against "the communist bloc," but only in Time-magazine parlance. Stating the matter right calls for much qualification. Such a concern - whether he was some kind of socialist trying to prompt Marxist communism, or a leader for whom all moves toward a desired political order were just pretexts for totalitarian rule - doesn't arise here, as the focus is on the suffering Stalin inflicted.

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