Yuletide Trotsky

Presumably set to coincide with the onset of holiday gift-giving madness, Verso has reissued the three-volume biography that at one time was considered to be “the most delicious gift to smuggle to an East European intellectual.” Neal Ascherson reviews Isaac Deutscher’s monumental biography of Leon Trotsky in the London Review of Books:

…Reissued by Verso in three paperback volumes, Deutscher’s biography is still tremendous. The power and excitement of his prose knock the reader down. His command of the language, late Victorian in its freedom and in the absence of secondhand imagery, in some ways surpasses that of his fellow Pole Joseph Conrad. The scholarship is enormous and – given that the Moscow archives were closed to him – comprehensive. Above all, there is Deutscher’s own enthusiasm, a sort of majestic urgency. He believed that his subject mattered. Not just because of the tragic, even messianic shape of Trotsky’s life, but because Deutscher was convinced that in writing about this dead man, he was also writing about the future.