24 January 2010

Siqueiros and Trotsky

For anyone considering reading this novel, here is a paragraph on The Lacuna from The New Yorker, which does not contain spoilers. The extended and glowing review from The New York Times certainly does contain spoilers.

On that score if one is a spoiler freak to the extent that one considers any discussion of the fall of Moscow to Napolean's army to be a spoiler of War and Peace, then probably one should not read on here.

I am at the half way point. Trotsky has been assassinated, and the diarist is about to return to the United States for the second half of the book. The novel is a good read through the middle.

Ms. Kingsolver presents Leon Trotsky in a very favorable light. An understatement actually. It is as if she has never shed a 1968 infatuation with Trotsky that other old leftists long since have. Robert Service's recent book Trotsky probably presents a more accurate picture of this ruthless, egotistical revolutionary. But I wrote that off with the thought that an author of historical fiction is free to portray historical figures in whatever manner he or she wishes.


Nevertheless, her two acknowledged sources concerning Trotsky are Alain Dugrand's book, now out of print, Trotsky, Mexico 1937-1940, about which I can find nothing, and Trotsky's own autobiography, the aptly named My Life: An Attempt at an Autobiography, which I have read. Questionable fare for coming to a true understanding of the man.

But then I must say that I have learned something from Ms. Kingsolver. The great muralist David Alfaro Siqueiros personally participated in the first failed attempt on Trotsky's life in Mexico City. This was the attempt when home invaders sprayed the place with machine gun fire and threw incendiary bombs, but succeeded only in wounding Trotsky's only grandchild. (Trotsky's four children had all previously died or been hunted down and murdered by Stalin's minions.)

I was rocked back on my heels a bit by this. It is quite apparently true. Siqueiros himself apparently bragged about his participation in the attempt later after charges against him were dropped for lack of evidence.

How did I miss this tidbit before? It just goes to show you. You can try to pay attention, but you can still miss things.



1 comment:

Four Dinners said...

I've read a few books about Trotsky and Marx and Lenin etc etc.

I found Trotsky to be a fascinating character in some of them - and a real SOB in a couple.

Mainly fascinating though.

I hate spoilers!!!!