In This Review

Conspirator: Lenin in Exile; The Making of a Revolutionary
Conspirator: Lenin in Exile; The Making of a Revolutionary
By Helen Rappaport
Basic Books, 2010, 416 pp

Whatever else one would say of Lenin, his near-superhuman, self-sacrificing focus on the revolution he embraced while still in his early 20s cannot be denied. Never before have his mind, habits, quirks, and passions been so well portrayed as in this book. Lenin's five years in power are crucial to Russian history, but the 25 years before -- most spent dodging the Russian secret police while fleeing back and forth across Europe -- are critical to understanding him and his conspiratorial movement. The events of these years have been recounted a thousand times, but Rappaport penetrates beyond them by trailing after Lenin, his utterly devoted wife, Nadezhda Krupskaya, and the sundry young Russian revolutionaries who collected about him in an endless succession of one-room furnitureless apartments, makeshift meeting places, and furtive printing centers. Lenin comes to life as he frequents the streets, cafés, and reading rooms of Geneva, Munich, London, Zurich, Paris, and Stockholm; hikes the Swiss mountains; and plots the revolution's dawn with a shrinking band of tolerated associates.