How It All Began: The Prison Novel

How It All Began: The Prison Novel

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The autobiographical novel and final work of one of the Communist Party's youngest, most popular, and most intellectual members is both an astonishing personal testament and a panoramic view of Russia on the eve of a revolution that transformed the twentieth century. The story behind How It All Began is almost as compelling as that contained within its pages. Of all those in Lenin's inner circle, Nikolai Bukharin stood out as a kinder, gentler sort of revolutionary: a painter, writer, and student of the social and natural sciences who later defended Lenin's liberal New Economic Policy during the '20s. If he hadn't fallen prey to Stalin's maniacal purges, the history of Russian Communism might have turned out quite differently. Instead, Bukharin spent a year in prison writing feverishly and awaiting trial. He finished four books during that hellish year--two books of political theory, a volume of poems, and then this unfinished novel--before being shot in his cell. The resulting manuscript could easily have vanished from the face of the earth. Improbably, it survived in Stalin's personal archives, from whence it was rescued, translated by George Shriver, and offered up as both historical document and genuinely interesting work of fiction--a sort of portrait of the revolutionary as a young man. How It All Began follows the coming of age of one Kolya Petrov, the son of vaguely liberal provincial Russians. Although Bukharin plants all the seeds of the political consciousness to come, this is done with a mercifully light touch, interspersed with character studies, lyrical descriptions of nature, and accounts of young Kolya's education. The book breaks off abruptly when Kolya is only 15, as the country was about to plunge into 1905's failed revolution--and as Bukharin himself was about to be silenced forever.


    Nikolai Bukharin




    George Shriver


    Stephen F. Cohen








    Columbia University Press


    Columbia University Press










    Columbia University Press


    Columbia University Press

    How It All Began: The Prison Novel

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