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Trotsky: Downfall of a Revolutionaryby Bertrand Patenaude
Synopses & Reviews
Few political figures of the twentieth century have aroused as much passion, controversy, and curiosity as Leon Trotsky. Trotsky was that rare combination of the man of ideas and the man of action. His role in history—his epic rise and fall, his fiery persona, his violent end in Mexico in August 1940—holds a fascination that transcends the history of the Russian Revolution. Based on extensive firsthand research, this groundbreaking biography examines Trotsky's remarkable life from the perspective of his last exile in Mexico.
Bertrand M. Patenaude masterfully interweaves the story of Trotsky's final years in Mexico with flashbacks to pivotal episodes in his career as a young Marxist, revolutionary hero, Red Army chief, Bolshevik leader, outcast from Stalin's USSR, and ultimately heretic of the Kremlin, targeted for assassination by its secret police. He vividly recounts the contentious Dewey Commission hearings and the passionate debates among liberals and Communists in the United States and Europe over the Moscow Trials and the charges made against Trotsky.
Drawing on Trotsky's private correspondence and diaries, as well as the testimonies of his American bodyguards and secretaries, Patenaude sheds new light on Trotsky's tumultuous friendship with painter Diego Rivera; his affair with Rivera's wife, Frida Kahlo; and his torment as his family and comrades became victims of the Great Terror. Patenaude also turns to KGB files to document Stalin's efforts to eliminate the man he considered his nemesis—including a failed commando raid on Trotsky's home three months before his death.
Gripping and tragic, Trotsky brilliantly illuminates the fateful and dramatic life of one of history's most captivating and important figures.
"A captivating account of the final years of Leon Trotsky, Lenin's former right-hand man, who was outmaneuvered by Stalin and driven into exile in 1929. Historian Patenaude (The Big Show in Bololand), a lecturer at Stanford, concentrates on the period from 1937, when Trotsky arrived in Mexico, to 1940, when a Soviet agent plunged an ice pick into his skull. The year 1937 marked the height of Stalin's purge trials during which a parade of great revolutionary figures confessed to being fascist saboteurs working for Trotsky. All were executed along with their families, friends and thousands of other innocent citizens. Some Western leftists were disgusted, but many couldn't believe the nation they admired could tolerate such injustice. Trotsky set to work, pouring out writing and speeches and testifying at international hearings, which concluded that the trials were a sham. Patenaude paints a vivid portrait of Trotsky, a flamboyant, Westernized intellectual; his stormy relations with his equally flamboyant Mexican champion (and later enemy), artist Diego Rivera; his dealings with his own largely American supporters; and the relentless efforts of Stalin's GPU to kill him. This is a dramatic, event-filled portrait of a turbulent, half-forgotten era. 14 b&w illus. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
In Trotsky: Downfall of a Revolutionary,
About the Author
Bertrand M. Patenaude is a lecturer at Stanford University, where he is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution Library and Archives. He is the author of The Big Show in Bololand, which won the Marshall Shulman Book Prize. He lives in Menlo Park, California.
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