Koba the Dread: Laughter and the Twenty Million by Martin Amis

Martin Amis is a giant of words.  To say simply that he is brilliant with this memoir-cum-historical account of the former USSR is to pay him the least of compliments; to say he has created an absolutely unforgettable work in his analysis of Stalin and the great Soviet experiment that was a miserable failure is perhaps telling the truth like it is.

With skill and daring, he recounts the genesis of Bolshevism at the start of the twentieth century to the legacy of Lenin and Stalin’s communist police state that brutalized and eliminated over the course of four decades more than twenty million lives—unfortunately all but forgotten (juxtapose this with the six million of the Holocaust).

Koba (Stalin) the Dread opens the eyes and forces us to peer through his strange kaleidoscope of unreason created by way of his socialist philosophies, and in whose name are committed innumerable crimes against humanity: the gulags, the forced famines, and the pure unadulterated terror that were as recent as the late 1950s.


And the role of laughter as an escapist defense mechanism in these times is one that can perhaps only be understood if one were there—either as a perpetrator or a victim. This book: highly recommended to anyone with a conscience.

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