Review: Describes the period in America when people were attracted to Communism and then began to disconnect themselves from it. Almost every incident involving her relationship to Communism is a tangled web of circumstances implicating her, almost without her knowing it.
The anecdote about why Trotsky did not attend Lenin’s funeral sums up her feelings about her involvement with Communism. Trotsky had an accident while on a trip shooting wild ducks in the autumn. Trotsky: “One can foresee the consequences of a revolution or a war, but it is impossible to foresee the consequences of an autumn shooting trip for wild ducks.” Her relationship with Communism was purely an accident.
She was an observer, not a believer. She know almost nothing about the party squabbles that the serious, humorless party True Believers cared so much about, but if she expressed an opinion, then her name appeared on the masthead of documents about Communist intra-party “causes.” Gives one the impression that the Communist party in America was a political maelstrom.
Quote: “Every age has a keyhole to which its eye is pasted.”
Quote: “Two shuddering climaxes, two rendezvous with destiny, form the poles between which these narratives vibrate: the first describes the occasion when the subject was seduced by Communism; the second shows his wrestling himself from the demon embrace.”
Quote: “My real interests were literary.”
Quote: “Most ex-Communists nowadays, when they write their autobiographies or testify before Congressional committees, are at pains to point out that their actions were very, very bad and their motives very, very good.”
Quote: “People sometimes say that they envied the Communists because they were so ‘sure.’ ”
Quote: “In any case, my soul was not particularly hot for certainties.”
Quote: “Anybody who has ever tried to rectify an injustice or set a record straight comes to feel that he is going mad.”
Quote: “Trotsky himself, looking at his life in retrospect, was struck, as most of us are on such occasions, by the role chance has played in it.”
The Art of the Personal Essay: An Anthology from the Classical Era to the Present. Ed. Phillip Lopate. New York: Anchor Books, 1995.