The rise of the Bolsheviks is an epic Russian story that now has a definitive end. The major historian of the subject, Adam Ulam, has enlarged his classic work with a new Preface that puts the revolutionary moment, and especially Lenin, in perspective for our modern age.
Notwithstanding the title…this is the most rewarding single study of Lenin that I have yet encountered… The really impressive feature of Ulam’s book is that he is thinking hard all the way. No comfortable historical generalization or biographical cliché escapes his critical attention, and he has a most satisfying way of asking, in effect—is this an adequate explanation; what else may be involved? In these days of rampant ‘be-that-as-it-may’ writing, Ulam’s intellectual seriousness is a great relief and pleasure.
This biography of Lenin…is so good that it is not merely superior in degree to any other life of Lenin, but different in kind. The conjunction of scholar and artist is the rarest thing. We used to be told that it was worth learning Italian to read Dante. Here is a new one: it is worth developing an interest in Lenin to read Adam Ulam.
Adam B. Ulam was Gurney Professor of History and Political Science at Harvard University.