Thursday, December 29, 2016

Moscow-based author/professor Mark Teeter on Kotkin's "Stalin"

THOUGHTS UPON FINISHING STEPHEN KOTKIN’S “STALIN. Vol. 1 Paradoxes of Power,1878-1928” (2014) A Cliff’s Notes Review, 2 Yrs Late
--> The jacket blurbs are basically right. This *is* “biography on an epic scale” and “a monumental achievement.” There are nits to pick, of course (and I’ll pick a few down the line), but it really is a remarkable vol., the scope and depth of which I can’t recall analogs for. That SK was able to maintain as even-handed and dispassionate a narrative as this one is when describing the cast of reprehensible characters you’ve come to know and loathe over the decades – led, of course, by a mass-murdering sociopath just coming into his own ‘tel quel’ as the tome ends (1928) – is in itself a major accomplishment.
Even briefer-ly put: If Gaddis waxed a bit hyperbolic w/ the “Only Tolstoy might have matched it” line, you see what he meant – and anybody short of the late Benedikt Sarnov (“Сталин и писатели”/”Stalin and the Writers,” 4 vols.) would have a hard time arguing w/ it.…/…/0143127861
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Mark H. Teeter This is a fair enough mini-surmise of the vol. (or your sense of it, rather), and the casually colloquial style you use fits well w/ many passages of the volume itself ("Stalin had a penis and he used it"). But you cite too many *other* blurbs, even for a mini-Cliff's Notes; and "briefer-ly" is unforgivable. I also had to take off a grade for each year late: B+
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Mark H. Teeter SK has harder words than you might expect for a no. of players (incl. Milyukov, Kerensky, Kamenev, Bukharin, Trotsky), but he comes down just abt right, I think, on the seemingly historically-teflon (to many here, anyway) V. Molotov, who was indeed a "...See More

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