that dogged little fellow


Just when you thought there was nothing left to say about Lenin, along comes a fine book that represents him afresh by concentrating on his life before achieving power. Vladimir Ilyich and his wife Nadezhda Krupskaya spent seventeen years leading a parlous nomadic existence as underground agitators before their return to Russia in March 1917. Helen Rappaport treats her subject as “a rather inconsequential-looking man . . . with his dowdy wife” pursuing a secret goal. Whether his politics were right is not her concern. This is Lenin for a new generation of readers who can afford to look dispassionately on his human story. The result is a dramatic, atmospheric tale, about a dogged little fellow, bald with a red beard, who came off his bicycle when his tyre got wedged in a Geneva tramline, and was twice again knocked down in France cycling back from air shows, for which he had a passion. He sent his London landlady a picture album to mark his and Nadya’s happiest year anywhere, in digs near King’s Cross, in 1902–03.

more from Lesley Chamberlain at the TLS here.