That idea crumpled when (Lenin’s) wife reminded him that he would give the game away on any crowded train because he shouted in his sleep. He would have woken an entire carriage, she was certain, with his outbursts, in vernacular but unmistakable Russian, about the perfidies of Kerensky and Miliukov.
LENIN ON THE TRAIN is one of my favourite recent reads.
He toiled in a high-tension frenzy, his stack of books a fortress wall, his pencils sharpened to cruel points.
It is full of wonderful observations, recovered reportage and bon mots. Bons mot?
…German officers, who were said to have taken to soaking suspicious cross-border travellers in chemical baths to find out if there might be concealed writing on their skin…
‘Not one party was preparing for the great upheaval,’ remembered Nikolai Sukhanov, then thirty-five years old and working semi-legally as a socialist and writer. ‘Everyone was dreaming, ruminating, full of foreboding, feeling his way.’
Strongly recommended. Parts of it strongly echo against the walls of the 2010’s. Perhaps not surprising, when a Lenin-admiring political officer sits on the US National Security Council.
…the new wave were shop-floor radicals who wanted more than talk and promises. Younger, more optimistic and often ready for a fight (Colonel Nikitin, the head of Petrograd counter-intelligence, described them as ‘the dregs of the nation’), the new recruits knew little about ideology or the niceties of Zimmerwald internationalism. They joined the Bolshevik Party because it was known to be the most extreme, the party of the dispossessed, the one whose members talked the toughest line.