Academic journal article New Formations

Lars T. Lih, Lenin

Academic journal article New Formations

Lars T. Lih, Lenin

Article excerpt

Lars T. Lih, Lenin, London, Reaktion Books Ltd, 2011; 235pp, 10.95 [pounds sterling] paperback

Vladimir Ilich Lenin--'a posthumous creation' (p7), a name by which the man himself never went. So how does the life of Vladimir Ilich Ulyanov the man inform the works of the writer N.Lenin? This question marks the opening of Lars T. Lih's new critical and biographical study. Prior to declassification of Soviet archives, studies of Lenin lacked the necessary details for a 'warts and all' treatment, yet since then, Lih writes, studies 'often seem to be based on a methodology of "nothing but warts"' (p13). Rather than mimic the likes of Lenin's Mistress--Micheal Pearson's 2002 work aimed at uncovering Lenin's 'darker, sexual side' (p216) through a possible relationship with French communist Inessa Armand--Lih instead treats Lenin's life as a valuable source of clarification in the consideration of his contested ideas.

The work builds around Lenin's 'Heroic Scenario'; a term coined by Lih to emphasise Lenin's simultaneously romantic yet pragmatic analysis of Russia's material conditions as a means to proletarian revolution. The three central ideas that Lih builds through the text are the vozhd, the narod, and the vlast. 'The normal translations--vozhd = leader, narod = people, vlast = power are not inaccurate', according to Lih, yet 'they bleach the emotional colour out of Lenin's rhetoric' (p193). As the book follows Lenin's personal history and the context surrounding it, these concepts are so skilfully interwoven as to be almost imperceptible. …

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