Tangled Loyalties: The Life and Times of Ilya Ehrenburg (Judaic Studies Series)

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9780817309633: Tangled Loyalties: The Life and Times of Ilya Ehrenburg (Judaic Studies Series)

Rubenstein uncovers the man behind the controversies, the gifted writer whose life embodied all the tragic dilemmas of a Russian Jewish intellectual under totalitarianism.

  Journalist, novelist, and poet Ilya Ehrenburg (1891-1967) was one of the most important Russian cultural figures of the 20th century. A political exile from czarist Russia, he spent years in Paris as a bohemian poet and later became a correspondent for Izvestia in Western Europe. He was one of the few distinguished Soviet writers to survive Stalin. Ehrenburg’s 1954 novel The Thaw lent its name to the critical period following Stalin’s death. His memoir People, Years, Life outraged the Kremlin in the 1960s by describing a conspiracy of silence” that had prevailed under the dictator. Ehrenburg was a young Bolshevik who turned anti-Communist and then two decades later became a spokesman for Stalin. He was an assimilated Jew who fought anti-Semitism and a Russian patriot who was both mistrusted by orthodox Communists and denounced by Hitler as his main enemy. As a Jew, he was said to have betrayed his people; as a writer, his talent; as a man, his conscience. Yet, as Joshua Rubenstein shows, Ehrenburg retained a measure of integrity. He helped other writers, including Anna Akhmatova, Osip Mandelstam, and Boris Pasternak. He battled censorship and championed European art in Moscow. His circle of friends included Pablo Picasso, Amedeo Modigliani, Diego Rivera, Ernest Hemingway, Isaac Babel, and André Malraux. In vivid detail, Tangled Loyalties draws extensively on new material from Russian archives, from Ehrenburg’s private correspondence, and from interviews with scores of family members and friends. This penetrating biography will challenge our assumptions about collaboration, assimilation, dissent, and moral survival.

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Review:

Journalist, novelist, poet - Ilya Ehrenburg (1891-1967) was one of the most important Russian cultural figures of the twentieth century. A political exile from czarist Russia, he spent years in Paris as a bohemian poet and later became Izvestia correspondent in Western Europe. He was one of the few distinguished Soviet writers to survive Stalin. Ehrenburg's novel The Thaw lent its name to the critical period following Stalin's death. His memoirs People, Years, Life outraged the Kremlin in the sixties for describing a conspiracy of silence that had prevailed under the dictator. In this groundbreaking biography, Joshua Rubenstein tells the story of one of Russia's most controversial and enigmatic figures.

Ehrenburg was a young Bolshevik who turned anti-Communist, then two decades later became a spokesman for Stalin. He was an assimilated Jew who fought anti-Semitism, and a Russian patriot who was both mistrusted by orthodox Communists and denounced by Hitler as his main enemy. As a Jew, he was said to have betrayed his people; as a writer, his talent; as a man, his conscience.

Yet Ehrenburg retained a measure of personal integrity. He helped other writers, including Anna Akhmatova, Osip Mandelstam, and Boris Pasternak. He battled censorship and championed European art in Moscow. His circle of friends included Pablo Picasso, Amedeo Modigliani, Diego Rivera, Ernest Hemingway, Isaac Babel, and Andre Malraux.

In vivid detail, Tangled Loyalties draws extensively on new material from Russian archives, from Ehrenburg's private correspondence, and from interviews with scores of family members and friends. The book uncovers the man behind the controversies, whose personal life was as unconventional as the career he fashioned.

Joshua Rubenstein portrays Ehrenburg as a man of great gifts whose life embodies all the tragic dilemmas of a Russian intellectual under communism. This penetrating biography will rekindle inteerest in a man whose career challenges our assumptions about collaboration, dissent, and moral survival.

About the Author:

Joshua Rubenstein is the Northeast Regional Director of Amnesty International USA and an Associate at the Davis Center for Russian Studies at Harvard University. He has written for The Nation, The New Republic, the Wall Street Journal, and the New York Times, among other publications.

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