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The Accidental Anarchist: From the Diaries of Jacob Marateck

4.07  ·  Rating details ·  218 ratings  ·  40 reviews
The Accidental Anarchist is the true story of Jacob Marateck, an Orthodox Jew who was sentenced to death three times in the early 1900s in Russia -- and lived to tell about it. He also happens to have been the author's grandfather. The book is based on the diaries that Marateck began keeping in 1905. That was when he decided to overthrow the Czar . . . The story is told in ...more
Paperback, 376 pages
Published February 22nd 2015 by Tbd (first published October 6th 2010)
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Average rating 4.07  · 
Rating details
 ·  218 ratings  ·  40 reviews

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Charles Weinblatt
Jan 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing
“A swift, unrelenting trip down a shocking rabbit hole of incredible and frightening reality.”

Reviewer: Charles S. Weinblatt

The Accidental Anarchist tells the intriguing true story of the colorful Jacob Marateck, a Jew conscripted into the Russian Army during events leading up to World War I.

He becomes a leader of soldiers in the brutal Russo-Japanese War, many of whom wanted to murder him for being Jewish, yet he gains their admiration after leading them in ferocious battles.

Kate Brauning
Feb 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing
The Accidental Anarchist

Bryna Kranzler

Crosswalk Press, 2010

I am usually not drawn to nonfiction in the same way I am drawn to fiction. This is partially because biographies and memoirs fail to communicate human character in the same way that well-written fiction can. To me, they often seem dry and lifeless, like a report of events rather than a slice of life.

This week I finished reading The Accidental Anarchist by Bryna Kranzler. Compiled from the
William Harmer
Feb 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing
The book “The Accidental Anarchist” by Bryna Kranzler reads like a novel, with the adventures of a Jewish man who lived in Czarist Russia and who fought the ‘simian’ Japanese, idiotic and cruel military officers, and the overwhelming anti semitic society, just to name a few. Yacob Marateck, the man from whom the story is based, sticks up for his friends and family and his fellow Jew, no matter the opposition, yet somehow retained a humor that I most certainly would not have had. He truly is a he ...more
Mar 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing
To read a diary provides an opportunity to look into the diarist's soul. The Accidental Anarchist by Bryna Kranzler is the story of her grandfather, Jacob Marateck, and the book provides just that opportunity. In the Author's Note Ms. Kranzler writes that "The objective was to create an entertaining and enlightening narrative without changing the story." She succeeded.
Jacob Marateck and his family lived in Russian occupied Poland in the latter part of the 19th century. Most people were poor and
A compelling true account of a Jewish solider striving for survival in the Japanese-Russian War. Well, that’s a portion of the story. We’ll say a quarter. Marateck not only had to survive the Japanese trying to kill him; but his own Russian comrades. After the war Marateck joins a group containing mostly ‘amateur’ Polish revolutionaries. & through a series of unfortunate events ends up exiled in Siberia. His most extraordinary adventure, finding his way to a life he deserves, finding a way h ...more
Very easy to read. About a Jew in Tsarist Russia/Poland.

Basically growing up > moves to Warsaw for work > gets involved with unionising > moves back home > gets conscripted > Russo-Japan War > misses the 1905 revolution > survives war > goes home > moves to Warsaw to work > gets involved on the politics side > gets caught in an action > sentenced to death > repealed, 10years hard labour > sent to Siberia > escapes on the way > has to get home etc.
Jun 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Cried and laughed with the hero of the book. This clever sense of humor and the deep sense of humanity is uplifting. Should be recommended as supplementary reading to any Russian history textbook of tzar era.
Nov 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: historical
Jacob Marateck's incredible story of survival against tremendous odds must be one of the best and most engrossing such accounts that I've read. Jacob is conscripted or better said, forced into servitude, into the Imperial Army at a time when the Czar is still called "little father." As a Jew, Jacob receives special treatment, meaning he is insulted, bullied, humiliated, given unusually dangerous tasks to perform, accused of insubordination, sentenced to death, but receives a last-minute reprieve ...more
Jan 30, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: first-reads
I received this book through a Good-Reads "First Reads" Giveaway. The Accidental Anarchist is based on the diaries of Jacob Marateck and his adventures and misadventures as a soldier, revolutionary, convict, and fugitive in the Russian Empire during the early years of the 20th Century. A Jew from Poland conscripted into the Russian Army who was sent to fight in the against the Japanese in Manchuria in 1904, Marateck undergoes hardship after hardship. Yet throughout the book he remains resilient ...more
Tom Schulte
This was a delightful read about a Russian Jew's comical flirtation with anarchist terrorism and fighting in the Czar's army in The Russo-Japanese War (8 February 1904 – 5 September 1905). Captured for his politically motivated crimes and being doubly persecuted as a Jew, the diarist that was the source of this biography teams up with a good-hearted, optimistic thief and escapes from a Siberian prison camp. The story nicely ends with the meeting and marriage to the headstrong woman that delivere ...more
Apr 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
Jacob Marateck was born in 1883 in Russian-occupied Poland, and drafted into the Czarist army when he turned 21, just in time to fight in the Russo-Japanese war. As a Jew, he was hated by many of his fellow soldiers, not to mention officers, but his intelligence and courage, plus his luck in avoiding being injured or killed, got him promotion. When he was finally mustered out, he went back to Warsaw and returned to his avocation--trying to overthrow the Czar. Soon he was on his way back to Siber ...more
Adam Smith
Apr 30, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Yakov Maratek was a Polish Jew conscripted into the Russian army in 1904 at the height of the Russo-Japanese war. After two hellish years in service of the Czar, Yakov was filled with dreams of the glorious revolution to come. This book tells the story of his ill-fated attempts at being a revolutionary and the numerous times he faced the death sentence and narrowly escaped by the skin of his teeth.

Before reading this I didn't know anything other than that the title was interesting. I
Delin Colón
Jan 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
Shelves: jewish, history
I wasn't able to put this book down. Having done a good deal of research on the Pale of Settlement in Czarist Russia, I recognized that Jacob Marateck (the protagonist) voiced the sentiments and relayed the experience of many. His tenuous existence, hair-raising experiences and incredible escapes from the jaws of death, spanning 12,000 frozen and hungry miles are told in the first person. It was as if we were sitting around a fire, in the frozen forest, sharing a crust of bread and he graced me ...more
Mar 11, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
I received a copy of this book through Goodreads First Reads.

The Accidental Anarchist is an incredible story of survival through the most unbelievable of hardships. The book is composed of the translated diaries of a young Jacob Marateck who is a young Jewish soldier during the Russo-Japanese War. Although the book does deal with the day to day hardships that soldiers faced in early 20th century warfare, it is the almost lighthearted way that Jacob describes his experiences that make this book
Kerry Waller
Jan 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
Debated between 3 and 4 stars here. Incredible tale, but the writing is not as compelling as the tale itself. The Accidental Anarchist is the amazing tale of a Russian Jew (Jacob Marateck) who lived in the early 1900's. It is translated by his daughter and granddaughter from his own diaries and contains the stranger than life tale of his journey from his days as a teenage agitator to his stint in the Czar's army to post-war agitation to his eventual arrest, sentence to Siberia, escape and return ...more
Dec 18, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: war, biography
The pretty amazing story of Jacob Marateck, a Jew trying to survive in Zsarist Russia. As if he doesn't get himself into enough trouble, he then serves in the army during the Russo-Japanese War.

A real-page turner, no doubt, and I read it at almost one sitting. I did find some of Marateck's tales a bit hard to believe, though I do know after reading the background of the book they are based on his diaries. Many of the Zsarist officers seem like parodies. I know discipline was harsh, but a Captai
Mar 04, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: autobiographies
Kranzler does a pretty fantastic job of summarizing her grandfather Jacob's story. The book takes you through the width of Eurasia and draws images in a way that truly makes you feel like it's your own experience. This is perhaps the most adventurous real-life story I have ever read with Jacob's multiple death sentences, his time as a Jewish Russian soldier, and his journey through Siberia: all of it combined with his description of his personal ideas and beliefs. This really makes for a serious ...more
Diane Lybbert
Mar 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Wonderful compilation of actual diaries kept by Kranzler's greatgrandfather. He is a Polish Jew living in Russia in the early 1900s, fights for the Czar in the war even though he personally has no political views guiding him. Through a series of wildly funny adventures with various comrades, escapes and captures, dinners with the upper classes and unrecognizable 'stew' with the convicts, he keeps his sense of humor and hopes that he will one day return to Warsaw and his family. This book was a w ...more
Aug 28, 2012 rated it liked it
Interesting story but not very believable. Jacob Marateck's war experiences didn't ring true. His journey as a political prisoner to the arctic regions of Siberia by boat then escape by foot to the Trans Siberian Railway and mistakenly going to Chelyabinsk then the quick trip to Irkutsk didn't make geographic sense. I suspect he embellished these stories for his kids then they they got artistic with their editing.
Zohreh Ghahremani
Jan 04, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I never thought another war-time book about a Jewish soldier would be so intriguing. Maratek is a young soldier during the Russo-Japanese war. Although sentenced to death three times, he lives to tell, and tell with a unique sense of humor he does! An entertaining way to learn history and a fiction so close to this hero's real diary. Bryna Kransler does a superb job of bringing her grandfather back to life. A must read.
Megan Moody
Sep 15, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
The book is immensely readable. The humor of the main character comes through loud and clear. The only thing that sits uncomfortably with me is how much if it might have had liberties taken with the truth of the story. If al major events are true, it's an astonishing story. However, the skeptic in me has a hard time swallowing all of it. Assuming events are fairly accurate, it was a good primer on an era and war I knew little about.
Greg Robinson
Feb 03, 2013 rated it really liked it
A witty, albeit bare-boned narrative about a tumultuous life in a harsh and unstable Russia.

Don't expect much imagery, but the story is so bizarre in brute fact that you can't help but let your imagination fill in the gaps.

Most interestingly of all, this is a true story that has been three generations in the making.

I didn't know much about the political climate in Russia around 1905. I still don't; but now I am interested.
Brenda Cole
Nov 05, 2012 rated it really liked it
This book was unusual and I almost decided not to read it. However, after the first couple of chapters, I wanted to find out what happened. Realizing after the fact that this was based on a man's true experiences as told in his diaries, I realized that Jacob Marateck had a tremendous amount of optimism to get through the horrendous experiences he must have had. The style - telling very serious events in a humorous manner - was unusual, but intriguing at the same time.
Mike Mittlestat
Jan 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing
"Fiddler on the Roof" meets "Dr. Zhivago" meets --- "Oh Brother Where Art Thou". I loved this true tale of Jacob Marateck's ordeal as a labor agitator and odysseys through Siberia, first as a Jewish soldier conscripted into the Russian army and then as a political prisoner. Great story and great story-telling.
Sep 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I enjoyed the story and commend the writers for saving and writing the history of their grandfather / father and for his diaries being preserved. He had an interesting life view and somehow managed to stay out of trouble at crucial personal moral/ethical times in his life. It was very upbeat even though the events were often grim.
Jan 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Excellent read. Personally meaningful as my grandfather was also conscripted during this Russian occupation of Poland. The memoir is delightfully uplifting even as the dire circumstances are mostly portrayed in a remarkably positive tone.
David Dana
Apr 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Masterly editing of family writings creats a thoroughly believable true journal of a fantastic tale. The hero faces death repeatedly with a sense of humor that can be admired and which makes a cantankerous, independent fellow thoroughly likeable.
I got this book through a good reads first reads giveaway. I am a huge history person, it was my minor in college. For some reason, I just could not get into this book. I tried giving it a chance but I just did not find it interesting and therefore did not even finish it.
Phyllis Entis
Jul 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
I read this book a couple of years ago. Bryna Kranzler has distilled her grandfather's diaries into a fast-paced narrative that pulls the reader forward through the story. I could hear my own grandparents' voices in the cadence of her prose. I highly recommend this book.
Feb 28, 2013 rated it really liked it
Finished with 2 days to spare for book club!
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Bryna Kranzler is a graduate of Barnard College where she studied playwriting, and received the Helen Price Memorial Prize for Dramatic Composition. Her first play was a finalist for the Eugene O'Neill Memorial Theater Competition, and was scheduled for production twice: the first time, the theater owner died, and the season was shut down; the second time, the director committed suicide. For the b ...more