Containing a 100-page study of Stalin - Koba the Dread, Iosif the Terrible - Amis's memoir addresses itself to the central lacuna of 20th-century thought, that is the indulgence of Communism by intellectuals of the West.
Koba the Dread is the successor to Martin Amis's celebrated memoir, Experience. It is largely political (while remaining personal). It addresses itself to the central lacuna of twentieth-century thought: the indulgence of communism by intellectuals of the West. In between the personal beginning and the personal ending, Amis gives us perhaps the best one hundred pages ever written about Stalin: Koba the Dread, Iosif the Terrible. The author's father, Kingsley Amis, though later reactionary in tendency, was 'a Comintern dogsbody' (as he would come to put it) from 1941 to 1956. His second-closest, and then his closest friend (after the death of the poet Philip Larkin), was Robert Conquest, a leading Sovietologist, whose book of 1968, The Great Terror, was second only to Solzhenitsyn's The Gulag Archipelago in undermining the USSR. Amis's remarkable memoir explores these connections. Stalin said that the death of one person was tragic, the death of a million a mere 'statistic'. Koba the Dread, during whose course the author absorbs a particular, a familial death, is a rebuttal of Stalin's aphorism.
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With a new Martin Amis what you get is controversy, reviews, profiles and interviews, and somewhere amongst all that the book itself, which inevitably turns out to be well worth reading despite all the noise going on around it. This one was already attracting negative comments in book pages on the strength of the blurb alone. Koba the Dread is another memoir in the style of Experience, this time examining the fascination of communism for intellectuals in the West. Koba is Stalin, who described the death of a million people as a mere statistic. You wouldn't think so to read his reviews, but Amis is a great moralist, which is why his Nazi doctor novel Time's Arrow is still his masterpiece. In Stalin, Amis has discovered another subject worthy of his moral fervour.
About Martin Amis
Martin Amis is the author of nine novels, two collections of stories and five collections of non-fiction. His memoir, Experience, was published by Cape in 2000.
Koba The Dread by Martin Amis
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