Ally's Reviews > The Rasputin File

The Rasputin File by Edvard Radzinsky
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's review
Feb 21, 11

liked it
bookshelves: read-in-2011
Read from January 22 to February 21, 2011

** spoiler alert ** I really wanted to like this book, but I found a some problems with it. Some of them are purely housekeeping problems. For instance, the English translation is good, but I think it sucks some of the punch out of the language. There are exclamation points where there shouldn't be, and assumptions of what the author is saying in parenthiesis where there needn't be. It comes off drier than I think the original author intended.

The bigger problem is that the author promises to offer an unbiased look at Rasputin, from the perspective of those who knew him best. He accomplishes this through blaming Tsarina Alexandra wherever and whenever possible, saying that most of what Rasputin did was through his gleaning insight, and that he instinctually knew what SHE wanted him to do. When it's NOT possible, he switches tactics, and discounts the things Rasputin's friends and admirers say about him. It seems virtually everyone in Russia who was connected to the man was fat, ugly, gay, or probably gay. Or possibly had a gay husband. Entertaining to note, sure, but certainly far from the unbiased look the author promises. Tsarina Alexandra is continually compared to Marie Antoinette, and Rasputin is compared to both Hitler and Stalin, but is most commonly called, "the semi-illiterate Russian peasant." When I say 'commonly reffered as' I mean Radzinsky seems determined to remind us of his status every three or four pages. (Again, that could be the translation.) There's a line in the first section of the book that talks about life before Rasputin's birth, how many miscarriages his mother had, where it says, "like Hitler and Stalin, Rasputin was an only child, as if God had warned against that family reproducing." Then casually goes on in later pages to talk about Rasputin's own five children!

I wasn't exactly expecting sympathy for the man who is blamed for the fall of Russian Imperialism. It's a good read in that it doesn't skimp on details, and though the endings and conclusions are nothing I haven't heard before, there were lots of other little details in it that the historian in me loved. But the author promises to look at the story and the man in an unbiased way, and you can clearly see the author's own bias all through it. As he is a noted historian, I have to admit, I expected to find something a little more interesting and provocative. I have a feeling that's what the author meant to do, but in the end, even HE couldn't make up his mind, or deny his own biases.
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