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Koba the Dread: Laughter and the Twenty Millionby Martin Amis
Synopses & Reviews
A brilliant weave of personal involvement, vivid biography and political insight, Koba the Dread is the successor to Martin Amis?s award-winning memoir, Experience.
Koba the Dread captures the appeal of one of the most powerful belief systems of the 20th century — one that spread through the world, both captivating it and staining it red. It addresses itself to the central lacuna of 20th-century thought: the indulgence of Communism by the intellectuals of the West. In between the personal beginnings and the personal ending, Amis gives us perhaps the best one-hundred pages ever written about Stalin: Koba the Dread, Iosif 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, our leading Sovietologist whose book of 1968, The Great Terror, was second only to Solzhenitsyn?s The Gulag Archipelago in undermining the USSR. The present memoir explores these connections.
Stalin said that the death of one person was tragic, the death of a million a mere "statistic." Koba the Dread, during whose course the author absorbs a particular, a familial death, is a rebuttal of Stalin?s aphorism.
"Most readers won't be interested in the author's private quarrels, but in the bulk of the book he relates passionately a story that needs to be told, the history of a regime that murdered its own people in order to build a better future for them." Publishers Weekly
"Were this the stuff of fiction, it would be pulp horror or the most callous absurdism....[A]bove all, what Amis is trying to do in Koba the Dread is to clear the mental decks, to synthesize what various sources have to tell us about the reality of a major episode of 20th century history and to disdain any attempt to apologize for it or explain it away. That he does not consider himself especially political may be why his tone is so even (though firm), why he's without either the guilt or the fury that ex-believers feel in having allowed themselves to be deceived. Amis is asking if we can finally talk about this as logical, sensible, morally sentient adults." Charles Taylor, Salon.com Salon.com (read the entire Salon review)
"[P]assionate and intensely personal....A personal and polemical reaction to human and historical tragedy on both a small and a large scale, this is not an easy read." Library Journal
"Amis is at his best when using his arsenal of literary skills to create a compelling narrative....[This book] should send readers running to better, more scholarly books on this tragic period in history." Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
"[O]ne can't help but imagine what Koba the Dread might have been like if it had been written by Martin Amis the novelist instead of Martin Amis the amateur historian and polemicist." Ray Robertson, The Globe
In "Koba the Dread"--Koba itself a childhood nickname of Stalin's--Amis is compelled, through his scathing prose and razor-sharp insight, to reevaluate the era of Stalin and the unbelievably broad scope of human suffering he caused.
About the Author
Martin Amis is the best-selling author of several books including London Fields, Money, The Information, Experience, and The War Against Cliche. He lives in London.
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