...the best biography I’ve read in years, despite its being about one of the most destructive leaders in history. It takes Victor Sebestyen less than five pages to perform the hardest of all literary tricks: making the person he’s writing about seem like a familiar human being ... This isn’t a back-and-forth, on the one hand he was good, on the other he was bad biography. Sebestyen shows us what Lenin did and created was terrible. Who he was is and was, regrettably, fascinating ... Lenin is terrific, the story of 'the godfather' of 'post-truth politics' and founding father of one of the world’s biggest man-made catastrophes.
Can first-rate history read like a thriller? With Lenin: The Man, the Dictator, and the Master of Terror, the journalist Victor Sebestyen has pulled off this rarest of feats — down to the last of its 569 pages ... [Sebestyen has] a scriptwriter’s knack for drama and suspense that needs no ludicrous cliffhangers to enthrall history buffs and professionals alike.
...an accessible, fair and marvelously written biography that reinforces what we have learned in the past three decades ... For anyone interested in an introduction to the world’s greatest revolutionary that draws on the latest research, Mr. Sebestyen’s Lenin would be the place to start ... there’s little about Lenin’s writings or his theories in Mr. Sebestyen’s book. This is very much an intimate portrait, squarely focused on Lenin the man.
Taking readers deep into a marriage that previous biographers have dismissed as merely functional, Sebestyen illuminates moments of real tenderness—and of painful tension—as Lenin succumbs to the charms of a beautiful émigré, whom he makes his mistress without abandoning his wife. Lenin’s handling of rivals comes into focus in a different context when Sebestyen analyzes the ways the dictator advances his agenda by playing the scintillating Trotsky against the ruthless Stalin. Readers see a great historical tragedy play out, however, as Russia’s dying Red Tsar leaves his most bloody-minded lieutenant in prime position to take over the brutal police state he has forged. A compelling portrait of an epoch-making figure.
The author does not overwhelm with detail, and he focuses especially on how Lenin’s most important relationships were with women, such as his mother, his wife, Nadya, and his mistress, Inessa Armand ... Sebestyen ably captures the man, 'the kind of demagogue familiar to us in Western democracies.' A compelling, cleareyed portrait of a dictator whose politics have unfortunate relevance for today.