AMIS, Martin Louis. Koba the Dread. Laughter and the Twenty Million. London: Clays Ltd, St Ives plc for Jonathan Cape, 2002. 

Octavo (215 x 134mm), pp. viii, 306, [6 (blank ll.)]. 4 plates with half-tone illustrations recto-and-verso. Original black boards, spine lettered in silver and with publisher’s device in silver, dark-blue endpapers, dustwrapper, not price-clipped. (Dustwrapper minimally creased at edges.) A very good, bright copy.

First edition. Taking its title from Stalin’s nickname ‘Koba’, Koba the Dread ‘is the successor to Martin Amis’s celebrated memoir, Experience. It is largely political (while remaining personal). It addresses itself to the central lacuna of twentieth-century thought: the indulgence of communism by intellectuals of the West. In between the personal beginning and the personal ending, Amis gives us perhaps the best one hundred pages ever written about Stalin: Koba the Dread, Iosif the Terrible. The author’s father, Kingsley Amis, though later reactionary in tendency, was “a Comintern dogsbody” (as he would come to put it) from 1941 to 1956. His second-closest, and then his closest friend (after the death of the poet Philip Larkin), was Robert Conquest, a leading Sovietologist, whose book of 1968, The Great Terror, was second only to Solzhenitsyn’s The Gulag Archipelago in undermining the USSR. Amis’s remarkable memoir explores these connections’ (dustwrapper blurb). 


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