Magazine November 2, 2009, Issue

Revising the Revolution

From the cover of Trotsky: Downfall of a Revolutionary (HarperCollins)
Trotsky: Downfall of a Revolutionary, by Bertrand M. Patenaude (HarperCollins, 384 pp., $27.99)

What are we to make of Trotsky? Nowadays, young people do not know much about him, and it is not easy to explain to them exactly who he was and why he was important. Hoover Institution scholar Bertrand Patenaude’s new book will help. It is based on a great deal of research and contains much new material. But it is a pity he adopted the sensational device of flashbacks to recount Trotsky’s career. A straightforward narrative biography would have been more useful.

Leon Trotsky was born Lev Davidovich Bronstein in 1879, in Ukraine. His father was an assimilated Jew who sought …

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