Erik Graff's Reviews > Koba the Dread: Laughter and the Twenty Million

Koba the Dread by Martin Amis
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's review
Apr 10, 2008

liked it
bookshelves: history, biography
Recommended to Erik by: John Elkin
Recommended for: Stalin admirers
Read in April, 2008 , read count: 1

It is unfortunate that Vintage lists this as "Memoir/History" as it isn't history in any serious sense. Amis is no historian. While indexed, the book lacks both bibliography and substantiating footnotes. Amis' primary sources as cited in the text, lean, as he admits, to the right.

The book is, however, partly a personal memoir and mostly an polemical essay or series of essays attacking the Soviet system in general and Stalin in particular. On the personal side, it is interesting that Amis is an old friend of Christopher Hitchens. Not knowing that until he mentioned it, Amis' style reminded me of Hitchens': clever and opinionated, if not so learned. (Now what would be really interesting would be a book of Amis and Hitchens arguing about Communism given that Amis has no real investment while Hitchens has Trotskyist roots).

That said, it is a well-written essay, a quick read. Amis actually does manage to evoke dark chuckles as he recounts the terrors of the Soviet system without making light of the suffering. Indeed, he bludgeons the reader with tales of terror and suffering, enough perhaps to make even a diehard apologist take note and pursue a modern history of the subject.

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