cover image The Revolutionist

The Revolutionist

Robert Littell. Bantam Books, $18.95 (467pp) ISBN 978-0-553-05260-2

A clever mix of history and fiction, carefully researched and vigorously written, this hefty novel focuses on a Jewish idealist, Alexander Til, who returns to his native Russia from the U.S. to participate in the Bolshevik Revolution, only to witness its brutal betrayal by Stalin. In addition, his best friend assumes a high position in the secret police. Til falls in love with Lili, the sister of Prince Yusupov, killer of Rasputin. He cares for her daughter when Lili falls victim to the regime and finally survives imprisonment and torture to become a film translator, a post that brings him fatefully close to Stalin, a keen movie buff himself. Vividly portrayed are such famous events as Lenin's arrival at Petrograd's Finland Station, the storming of the Winter Palace and Stalin's Purges; and such historical characters as Trotsky, Tsar Nicholas, Kerensky, Beria, Khrushchev and poet Osip Mandelstam (under the name Ronzha) whose courageous poem attacking Stalin stimulates opposition to the dictator while endangering his own life and the lives of his friends. This is an imaginative, stirring tale, hard to put down whether the reader's principal interest is history or fiction. Littell wrote The Amateur and The Sisters. 50,000 first printing; $75,000 ad/promo. (May)