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Koba the Dread : Laughter and the Twenty Million

by Martin Amis

Buy the book: Martin Amis. Koba the Dread : Laughter and the Twenty Million

Release Date: 17 July, 2002

Edition: Hardcover


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Buy the book: Martin Amis. Koba the Dread : Laughter and the Twenty Million

Another neocon who had the courage to reflect

This book is a catharsis for Martin Amis, son of neo-conservative Kingsley Amis, who questions (notably Christopher Hitchens) the continued ignorance of his former comrades with regard to their demands for government mandated "social justice."

This theme sandwiches a chronological depiction of the crimes of Lenin, Stalin, and their Bolshevik chums against the citizens of Russia and its buffer states. With regard to making the reader retch it's on a par with "the Black Book of Communism.

This intellectual journey from "True Believer" to political agnostic is one outlined in "Twilight of the Intellectuals" by Hilton Kramer as well as in a slew of other well-chronicled tomes mostly written by formerly Left-wing Jewish intellectuals (Himmelfarb, Krystol, etc) who reside in the environs of greater Manhattan. Amis abley follows in this tradition. One can see a similar variation in the contemporary schism which has developed between Jews supporting Israel and those supporting the Palestinians.

The looming question which might possibly be resolved through future findings of the Human Genome project is what causes otherwise intelligent and gifted people to block out new information which might possibly confict with their world views? As Saul Bellow opined, "a great deal of intellect can be invested in ignorance when the need for illusion runs deep". This condition is what has allowed so many intellectuals in the West to continue with their delusions about Communism in the face of the overwhelming evidence that its societal implementation into public policy has repeatedly ended in disaster. Would the world not be a better place if the pharmeceutical industry could discover a drug to ameliorate this most heinous of human conditions?

Amis is another in a growing group of such intellectuals who questions why none of those responsible for perpetrating such horrific crimes against humanity, in the name of social justice, have not themselves been brought to justice? Where is the equivalent of the Neuremburg trials for the former Communist leaders and their apparatchiks? This is Amis's question. To this end he relates his discussions with his friend Mr. Hitchens and the inability of said Christopher to even admit to the man-made famines in the Ukraine in the 30's (see "Harvest of Sorrow" by Robert Conquest) as more than "shortages"? We might note that we are seeing an identical famine unfold in present day Zimbabwe with Robert Mugabe playing the role of Lenin / Stalin. Where is the outcry from Leftist intellectuals in the West who purport to be for social justice?

Here's hoping that an increasing number of intellectuals will have the courage to undergo the torments of agonizing self reappraisal by emulating the revelations of Martin Amis. And, if you don't know the story of the Bolsheviks this book is a good place to start.


Gripping Literary Biography of the Worst Human Being, Ever

When Robert Conquest released the second, post-glasnost edition of his monumental work on the Stalinist horrors, "The Great Terror" he was asked if he wanted to give it a new title. He replied, "How about, 'I Told You So, You F-----g Fools!'" That is one of the more darkly amusing stories told by Martin Amis in this new book. Amis' goal seems to be to translate Conquest and Solzhenitsyn into terms comprehensible to the benighted intellectual classes of Britain and America. They were completely mistaken about *everything* related to Stalin and communism, and Amis wants to know why. (The answer could be the always-present human lust for Utopia that is found, ironically, even in William Blake's great unofficial second national anthem of England, "Jerusalem.") Amis' great gifts as a novelist are his supple, seductive style and his sure instinct for black humor, both of which are deployed to great effect in this biography/memoir. Some things are just so awful that the only response is knowing laughter: Amis writes that Stalin's life was not a tragedy like "Hamlet", but a dark farce like "Titus Andronicus" or something very Russian written by Gogol. Amis immerses us in the sheer awfulness of the times--I really can't think of another book, besides "The Gulag Archipelago", that so vividly conveys what happened. And the end of the book, Amis the hipster nihilist of previous books, finds himself with a wife, small children, and a dead father and sister. He grapples toward a new, mature understanding of tragedy that might include a glimmer of faith. "One death is a tragedy; a million is a statistic", said Koba the Dread. Amis' book is an attempt to mourn the 20 million dead victims of Stalin, one by one.


Nizhniy Novgorod

© FAB Russia, 2003-2005

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