The Autobiography of Joseph Stalin

Richard Lourie, Author Counterpoint LLC $25 (261p) ISBN 978-1-58243-004-1
Chilling and mesmerizing, Louries novel traces the Russian dictators life from childhood to the apex of his career, exploring the diabolical nuances of Stalins psychology. The USSR dictator narrates, in a grim and relentless voice, often referring to himself in the third person (Stalin needs peace for terror). His first words, Leon Trotsky is trying to kill me, reveal the fury and incipient dementia of his reaction to the news that his nemesis Trotsky, whom he has driven into exile in Mexico, is writing a biography of his former revolutionist comrade. Indignantly comparing Trotskys libelous biography to his own egotistical version, and ostensibly refuting Trotskys account, Stalin reveals the origins of his criminal mind and the extent to which he has indulged his murderous instincts. From the beatings he suffered at his fathers hands, Stalin learned the perverse power and effectiveness of psychological detachment and physical cruelty. From Darwin he ecstatically gleans that there is no God, therefore no judgment from above. Lourie juxtaposes Trotskys deeply intellectual analysis of Stalin with Stalins own earthy account, which is Machiavellian conviction sieved through the mindset of a thug, less a matter of dialectics than of bullying. Stalin uses bank robbery to finance the Bolsheviks; in prison, his friends are criminals, not the intellectuals he despises. Lourie (First Loyalty) plausibly speculates on key events in Stalins life, combining known history with well-researched probabilities, grounding the book in the actualities of this terrifying era while illuminating the unfathomable darkness of the mind that created it. Stalin realizes that Trotsky is on the heels of discovering his big secretthe one assassination Stalin has systematically concealedwhich sealed the fate of his reign and of countless traitors at the hands of the brutal new leader. Of course he acts to silence Trotsky, and to change the course of history. This nightmarish glimpse into a monsters mind is confidently and frighteningly realistic, appalling and irresistible at once. (June)
Reviewed on: 05/31/1999
Release date: 06/01/1999
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 272 pages - 978-0-306-80997-2
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