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Trotsky: Downfall of a Revolutionary

3.89  ·  Rating Details ·  179 Ratings  ·  32 Reviews

In Trotsky: Downfall of a Revolutionary, Stanford University lecturer Bertrand M. Patenaude tells the dramatic story of Leon Trotsky's final years in exile in Mexico. Shedding new light on Trotsky s tumultuous friendship with painter Diego Rivera, his affair with Rivera s wife Frida Kahlo, and his torment as his family and comrades become victims of the Great Terror, Trots

ebook, 384 pages
Published September 1st 2009 by HarperCollins e-books
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Jeffrey Keeten
Apr 18, 2013 Jeffrey Keeten rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: the-russians
”Trotsky may have looked the part of the Red warlord, yet he had no military background. In fact as war commissar he rarely involved himself in questions of strategy or operations, leaving this to the experts. He reserved for himself the role of supreme agitator, and because he was as ruthless as he was ubiquitous, often resorting to bloodcurdling threats to achieve results, he acquired a reputation for brutality, most of all for his merciless treatment of deserters.”

 photo YoungTrotsky_zpse1635070.jpg
Young Trotsky

Leon Trotsky b
Chris Chapman
[I have not covered up all possible spoilers here. For example, if you don't know how Trotsky died, and don't want to, read no further].

I thought this book about Trotsky's three years in Mexico, leading up to his assassination, was fascinating. As my knowledge about Trotsky was very sketchy (and my knowledge of the Russian revolution in general only marginally better) I really appreciated that the book uses those three years as a springboard to explore his life and legacy in general, covering h
Jeff Lanter
Apr 19, 2012 Jeff Lanter rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
I picked this up knowing nothing about Trotsky, but hoping to learn more about the Revolutionary. I think that changed what I enjoyed in this book versus someone who is well-versed in the man and his philosophy. It took me a little while to get him figured out. Trotsky was a very serious and intellectual person. While he deserves a great deal of credit for some things, he also had flaws as a person and especially as a politician. All of these become clearer as I read through the book. Downfall o ...more
Jan 12, 2012 Riley rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The second of three recent Trotsky biographies that I bought, this book focuses on his prisoner-like final years in Mexico. It is very well written and does a good job of weaving from Coyoacan to other signature moments of his life. Trotsky's legacy is a difficult one for me. It is clear his dream for human redemption was flawed indeed, yet his humanity was also very clear.

I underlined this passage, about a postscript to a will he wrote not long before he was assassinated:

"As he wrote these line
Erez Davidi
Sep 08, 2015 Erez Davidi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“Trotsky: Downfall of a Revolutionary” is an interesting account of Trotsky’s last few years of life while in exile in Mexico. This book offers a good combination of all the ingredients that make a good biography; it offers glimpses into Trotsky’s daily life, his character, a deeper discussion of his political philosophy and a bigger picture overview to provide context. Since I am not very familiar with Trotsky’s life, perhaps this wasn’t the best choice for me, because this biography chiefly fo ...more
Ali Changezi
Leon Trotsky; a comrade, head of red army, played a vital role in Russian revolution of 1917. This book by Bertrand M. Patenaude gives an insight about Trotsky's life, various incidents before and after Russian revolution. Trotsky was dethroned soon after Lenin's demise, by his counter part Joseph Stalin. This book also covers the Trotsky's days in exile, the fate of his son and Moscow trial that took place in 30's.
John Maniscalco
Oct 08, 2010 John Maniscalco rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is ostensibly an accounting of Leon Trotsky's final three years of exile in Mexico and his eventual assassination. In reality, this books provides quite a unique overview of Trotsky the man - his ideals, morals, and character. While unexpected, it was a pleasant surprise to read a more substantive study of the Russian Revolution's fallen idol rather than a mere tabloid retelling of Trotsky's love affairs and eventual murder.

Trotsky was a brilliant man, a man of ideas and of action. It
Dec 25, 2009 jill rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography, history
Stylistically, I didn't love this book. It shifted back and forth between Trotsky's final months in Mexico and the rest of his life, in a way that I found to be confusing and a little haphazard. I think it was an attempt to avoid the dry "thesis" trap that a lot of books written by historians fall into, but it didn't work for me. That said, Patenaude excels in the things I love about history books -- he chooses fantastic ancedotes and quotations to highlight, and his endnotes are extensive.

I ha
May 02, 2016 Banbury rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Knowing Trotsky's violent end makes reading Patenaude's book a bit like reading a Greek tragedy. By the end of this account of his last years, spent as a virtual prisoner as a result of Stalin's determination to have him killed, we see just how tragic a figure he was. It was his own success in the October Revolution that unleashed the forces that inevitably led to the concentration of Soviet power in the hands of a paranoid megalomaniac. Without a Trotsky, there would not have been a Stalin. The ...more
Gale Jake
A book worth reading to look at some of the specific Trotsky incidents in the overall history of USSR. It rides along on a barely recognizable continuum through the book, but many sections are very confusing chronologically. Car beyond the typical flashback. In one chapter an individual is killed, a couple chapters later he is alive then dead again later on. The book advances in time but the out of sequence events lay a rugged framework over a thin foundation. Huge numbers of major and minor pol ...more
Aug 30, 2016 Jon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A well written, well researched and moving account of Trotsky's final years of exile in Mexico. Sadly, the book fails to escape the conventional wisdom of Cold War liberalism - that Lenin lead inevitably to Stalin (portraying Trotsky as a dogmatic defender of rigid Bolshevism and an apologist for the "October Coup"). You will have to go to Tony Cliff's "The Darker the Night, the Brighter Stars" (vol. 4 of his Trotsky biography) or his "Trotskyism After Trotsky" for a more comprehensive account o ...more
Robert Clancy
Feb 16, 2010 Robert Clancy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography, history
Leon Trotsky, aka Lev Davidovich Bronstein, peaked in October, 1917. It was all downhill from there. Stalin hated him but cloddishly let him escape his clutches. He pursued him from 1929 until he caught up with him in 1940 in Mexico City.
The remarkable facts of Trotsky's exile are worth learning: Sponsored in Mexico by Diego Rivera; had an affair with Rivera's wife Frida Kahlo; a phalanx of American Trotskyite bodyguards; his children murdered by the GPU (KGB); his ties to the American Teamsters
Jul 07, 2012 Jason rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well written history of Trotsky during his exile years in Mexico up until his untimely death. The book has flashbacks to the past revolution and previous exiles but are done in a way that enhances the story line. The book reads more like a novel and less like a well researched history book, so your always wanting to read on to see what happens next. Also I thought the book was written very nonpartisan so the reader can examine the facts and determine the opinion on his/ her own. Also the charact ...more
Nov 04, 2014 Claire rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book explained the historical figure I was two Halloweens ago better than I had already researched. However, I already knew the basics about him, so it wasn't especially ground-breaking. Just, "oh, that's right."
(And it explained why some people acted peculiarly towards me after the idea I was a Trotskyite fluttered around campus a while!)

Maybe my apathy towards this alludes to my distaste for history, even though I know it makes society much more understandable.

As far as I can tell, this
Mike Oberholtzer
Oct 12, 2012 Mike Oberholtzer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As a novice to modern Russian history, I felt Patenaude produced a work that was not only entertaining, but explained itself well enough to stand on it's own. His use of the more distant past intermingled with Trotsky's final few years acted as a storytelling device that gave incredible continuity and insight into some of the behaviors and actions of the former war commissar.

I have no qualms about recommending this to anyone interested in the Old Man.
Bhaskar Sunkara
Aug 02, 2011 Bhaskar Sunkara rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well-researched, well-written (reads like a novel)... very surprising coming from a Hoover Institute guy.

Garbles a few facets of Trotsky's thought and misrepresents Lenin, but Patenaude's intentions are honest.

There hasn't been a better account of the Old Man's final years, "The Prophet Outcast" included.
Jan 20, 2013 Josh rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Engaging telling of a crazy story, focusing on Trotsky's final years in Mexico and the Soviet plot to kill him. Fascinating cast of characters, including Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, John Dewey, and the male honeypot NKVD agent who eventually killed Trotsky.
I really enjoyed this one. Trotsky is on my list of favorite tragic figures from history. It's the tragic figures that I relate to, they are the ones who call to me. And I'm sorry, but no one deserves an icepick to the brain (besides Hitler that is).
Jemera Rone
Aug 29, 2013 Jemera Rone rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Very informative and fascinating. Although I read it initially for the story of his sojourn in Mexico, I learned much more than that. It especially helped me understand the comtext of my former husband's (1964-66) political orientation.
Jason Walker
Trotsky is one of those enigmatic figures - is it truth and beauty? or is it all lies? So far this book doesn't attempt to dispell all the contradictions, settling in for a the rest of the history lesson according to Mr. Patenaude.
Trostky living in Mexico with Diego Rivera, way more comfortable than the locals, and having an affair with his host's wife. He was starting to really annoy me, although I'm not sure that was the author's point.
Colleen Marquis
Jan 06, 2017 Colleen Marquis rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great primer to Trotsky with no 'hero' worship or hidden agenda. Surprised the author called Frida's pregnancy termination in Detroit an abortion when in reality she had a later term miscarriage due to her injuries and overall poor health.
Aug 23, 2012 Drtaxsacto rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was always interested in what happened to Trotsky in Mexico. This book begins with him being expelled from Russia but then chronicles his time in Mexico.
Nov 17, 2013 Paulrus rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Sympathetic take on Trotsky, mostly focusing on his years in Mexico with the occasional flashback to an earlier portion of his life.
Mar 20, 2013 Cory rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Very well written. The whole books flows beautifully. Trotsky is a rather interesting fellow, I would have hated to be in his shoes.
Aug 30, 2013 Laura rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: slavic, non-fiction
I didn't think this book was particularly well-organized. At times it was difficult to follow.
The Hancock
Jul 24, 2012 The Hancock rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wonderful! Seemingly well researched and detailed but it reads like fast-paced fiction.
Michael Kocher
Jun 22, 2013 Michael Kocher rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A brilliant portrait of a brilliant man as he faces his mortality. Patenaude does not seek to demonize or idolize Trotsky and acknowledges all his strengths and weaknesses.
Dec 07, 2014 Todd rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
6word summary: Revolutionary in exile, target of Stalin.
Dec 22, 2009 Norma rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good book to read after "The Lacuna" by Barbara Kingsolver. Supports everything in Kingsolver's book re Trotsky's time in Mexico and relationship w/Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera.
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