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Trotsky: A Biography [Unabridged] [Paperback]

Robert Service
3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
RRP: 14.99
Price: 10.49 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

16 April 2010
Revolutionary practitioner, theorist, factional chief, sparkling writer, ‘ladies’ man’ (e.g., his affair with Frieda Kahlo), icon of the Revolution, anti-Jewish Jew, philosopher of everyday life, grand seigneur of his household, father and hunted victim, Trotsky lived a brilliant life in extraordinary times. Robert Service draws on hitherto unexamined archives and on his profound understanding of Russian history to draw a portrait of the man and his legacy, revealing that though his followers have represented Trotsky as a pure revolutionary soul and a powerful intellect unjustly hounded into exile by Stalin and his henchmen. The reality is very different, as this masterful and compelling biography reveals.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 624 pages
  • Publisher: Pan; Unabridged edition (16 April 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0330439693
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330439695
  • Product Dimensions: 14.4 x 23.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 99,264 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Robert Service is a Fellow of the British Academy and of St Antony's College, Oxford. He has written several books, including the highly acclaimed Lenin: A Biography, Russia: Experiment with a People, Stalin: A Biography and Comrades: A History of World Communism, as well as many other books on Russia's past and present. His most recent book, Trotsky, has been shortlisted for the Duff Cooper Prize. Married with four children, he lives in London.

Product Description


`The author at last follows up his biographies of Lenin and Stalin with this well-researched working examining Trotsky's complex ideas and the reasons behind his exile and murder.'
--`The Hit List', The Independent on Sunday

`Seldom has the pathology of the revolutionary type and its murderous consequences, been more mercilessly exposed than in this exemplary biography.' --Robert Harris, Sunday Times Culture

`There is much to attract the general reader of biography and fascinating findings from the archives for the specialist. Service's biography is a Trotsky for our times...'
--Ronald Grigor-Suny, History Today

'bold and balanced biography.' --Guardian

'It's a complicated story and Robert Service is just the man to disentangle it. With biographies of Stalin and Lenin already under his belt, he has delved into unexplored archives and does Trotsky proud.'
--Seven, Sunday Telegraph

'Service is never unkind to his subject, but nor is he an acolyte. One of the great functions his book performs, aside from being a compelling read, is to flesh out a non-Trotskyite version of Trotsky... There is not moralism in Robert Service's narrative - and there is no need. It is plain from the facts that Trotsky was a quite brilliant historical phenomenon; and not a very nice man.' --Paperback of the Week, Observer

'a fascinating new slant on one of the leading figures behind the Russian revolution.'
--Choice Magazine

'Service's biography answers so many questions...The book contains details hidden for years, so jump in and relive the revolution.' --Nick Ellis, Bournemouth Echo

'The author uses his profound knowledge of Russia and of Bolshevism to give us the best and most nuanced biography of a man without whom the Revolution might well not have succeeded. This is not the Trotsky many in the dwindling left-wing intelligentsia have known. The Trotsky we see here was `arrogant and imperious', fully the equal of Lenin or Stalin in barbarity. At last, students of Soviet Russia have a biography they can trust.'
--Contemporary Review

From the Publisher

Shortlisted for the Duff Cooper Prize
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars PROPHETLESS 20 Feb 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Service's problem is that his biography has to be compared with perhaps the greatest political biography of the 20th Century,
Isaac Deutscher's three volume study - The Prophet Armed; The Prophet Unarmed and The Prophet Outcast He seems to concede in his introduction that he can't write with Deutscher's style and verve, but more importantly Service lacks any passion. Not even the passion of a thoroughgoing hatchet job. Perhaps this was his idea in the first place, but in the face of the flawed grandeur of Trotsky's life, he resorts to minor quibbles and reservations - even missing,, as in his account of Kronstadt revolt the chance to challenge Trotsky's own version of events. What he doesn't seem to realise is that you can admire Trotsky without being a revolutionary Socialists - after all Duetscher's biography is Tony Blair's favourite book!.
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24 of 29 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Warts and all 7 Dec 2010
I have now finished Service's book. Well, I have to agree with some of the critical comments above. It is written in a rather pedestrian style, and yes, Service does come across as snide in parts. He doesn't much like his subject, that's clear. As for the alleged errors of fact, I'm not qualified to pronounce on that, but in a book of 500 densely written pages (excluding notes and index) it would be surprising if there were no errors of fact in it. These complaints may be nit-picking. Readers like myself who know little of Trotsky the man are more interested in getting an overall picture of what made him tick, than in a catalogue of details.

The main thing I would look for in any book about a subject like Trotsky, who seems to inspire adulation and loathing in equal measure, is that the writer should attempt, however unsuccessfully, to present both sides of the picture. This is something that Service does, however grudgingly. His very dislike of Trotsky means that his praise of the man's achievements and personal qualities has to be taken seriously. Conversely, his criticisms are backed up with quotes which seem to go some way to prove the point. For example, here is Trotsky's son Leva: "Papa never recognizes when he's in the wrong. That's why he can't bear criticism. When something is said or written to him with which he disagrees he either ignores it entirely or gets back with a harsh reply". For another side of Trotsky which is not normally acknowledged by his disciples, Service reveals that he treated the women in his life between badly to abominably.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great book 14 Mar 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Amazingly well-researched. Quite fascinating. Well written...and sad. Good to learn so much about an ancestor! No wonder I'm a dedicated socialist.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars History, not hagiography 13 Oct 2012
By John
I am, I must admit, a fan of Trotsky, his ideas and ideology were the best of any communist leader and his intellect and rhetorical skill unmatched by almost any other man of the period. Despite this I can, unlike some of my obtuse comrades, accept that he was not flawless. He was brilliant but we must accept that he was also arrogant and brutal. The Cold Warriors such as Deutscher were eager to praise him as the arch-enemy of Stalin and the Soviets however this is not history but hagiography. This has changed and historians, both sides of the Iron Curtain, are presenting him not as a deity but a man, talented but far from perfect.
Fabulously written and wonderfully informative.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not for trotskyists 16 Jan 2014
Trotsky has many many apologists in the Western political class, so for Service to produce a biography thats based on critical evaluation of the evidence and is not a gushing hagiography, has opened him up to savage attacks. This is an heroic and largely successful effort for which Service should be rightly praised.
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20 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Biography 5 Oct 2010
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
An even-handed biography on Trotsky was always going to be difficult and a long-time coming, and I think Robert Service does very well here.

Being exiled from the Soviet Union before the horrors of Stalin's rule, plus the fact that Trotsky was then free to criticize the approach taken by the leaders after he left (without having to deal with the practicalities himself) as well as being an excellent writer himself, means that Trotsky has definitely been viewed with rose-tinted spectacles in the West (while demonised in the USSR, which only added to his reputation elsewhere).

This biography brings out his strengths and weaknesses. On the plus side were the way he ran the Red Army during the civil war and his key role (equal in many ways with Lenin) in making the revolution happen. This was all done with a selfless commitment which mean that it never seems to have occurred to him to shape the Red Army to be an instrument to allow him to take personal control, or to build a serious faction in the party. The flip side was that he was careless in the way he dealt with others, making cutting criticisms without realising that he was creating enemies. Also he was every bit as ruthless as Stalin and Lenin, e.g. during the Civil War Trotsky was willing to use savage repression to consolidate Bolshevik rule.

The difference this book shows between him and Stalin is that Stalin was very much the organizational player, patiently building up a network of support against Trotsky until he could be edged out, then doing the same with Bukharin, until eventually Stalin was unchallenged as ruler.

So this book left me feeling I had a much better overall understanding of Trotsky, and why he was able to achieve his successes but then suffered his downfall.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Very well written
Gives a lot of information....Does clearly benefit from the new information after the archives has been opened....the author has an excellent style
Published 14 months ago by Anders Hald
5.0 out of 5 stars Good
A lot of new information.It is a book I was looking for my reseaching about soviet revolt leaders.Very usefull for everyone who interested in Russian history.
Published 20 months ago by algirdas paseveckas
4.0 out of 5 stars worth reading
I think people who see the book as over-critical of Trotsky are adopting a rather partisan approach. The author makes a point of outlining the subject's strengths. Read more
Published on 19 Aug 2012 by Cole Davis
1.0 out of 5 stars Discredited 'study'
As the glowing quotes on the Amazon 'product description' attest, Robert Service's biography of Trotsky was very well-received by the Tory press and right-wing ideologues who have... Read more
Published on 11 Feb 2012 by Martin J. White
1.0 out of 5 stars Rabid anti-communist bile
Anyone who has a level of knowledge beyond GCSE History and whom is not rabidly committed to an ideologically driven attack on all things Russian/Bolshevik/Communist will find... Read more
Published on 17 Dec 2011 by Tom Somerville
1.0 out of 5 stars An Utterly Discredited Biography.
For all the rave reviews and opinions that this is an even handed, objective assesment of Trotsky and his life, its nature and intent are best expressed by Service's comment,... Read more
Published on 23 Nov 2011 by Mimbi
1.0 out of 5 stars The worst book I have ever read
Professor Robert Service's Trotsky is a diabolical work. Firstly it is poorly written but the essential problem with it is that it cannot be really classified as what is ordinarily... Read more
Published on 7 July 2011 by Enlighten
4.0 out of 5 stars leon
this is a very in depth study of trotsky and very scholarly if i was doing a thesis for higher education this would be ideal , but as i am a casual reader with only limited brain... Read more
Published on 24 May 2011 by buggsy
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