Reading the other Lenin | Daily News


Reading the other Lenin

Quite a number of books in the form of biographies have appeared in the lives of the great statesman in the world. They come to be written with a special purpose, as the biographers are introspectively compelled to do so. The Great Russian statesman Vladimir Ilych Lenin (1870 – 1920) is regarded by many as an exception to the rule.

I have come across more than 20 books of varying types on the life of Lenin. More than 75 volumes are compiled on his various speeches and documentations. His well known two other writings are titled as What is to be Done? and Where to Begin?

He was not only a revolutionary in the strict sense of the world. He was also regarded as a patron of arts, who had influences with writers such as Tolstoy and Chekhov. A week ago, I came across the Sinhala translation of a book so far hidden from the popular galaxy of writings on the life of Lenin.

The title of the original work goes as Not by Politics Alone, the Other Lenin, edited by Tamara Deutscher. Thework which runs to 103 pages with rare illustrations translated into Sinhala by the award-winning translator and broadcaster Karunaratne Amarasinghe. The translation is titled Oba Nudutu Lenin. The 39 short chapters pave the way for quite a number of sensitive insights in the life of Lenin. Most of them, I feel, come as rare as well as material so far lay as hidden from the eyes of the Sinhala reader.

On reading the pages, I felt that the unknown material as laid down embrace the sensitivity and the deep vision in the life of Lenin not as a tradition-bound statesman, but as a widespread knowledge seeker who had had encounters with writers such as Leo Tolstoy, Mayakovski the poet, Maxim Gorky the critic Lunacharsky etc. The readers feel that Lenin too had been an avid reader of classics when he discusses on the topic of themes by Dostoevsky.

Taste-building factor

The brief notes in the work indicate how much of an interest Lenin has taken on musicology, theatre and cinema. The notes are indicators of his sense of responsibility in the taste-building factor of the masses. This is a factor that opens our eyes.

The two most touching chapters go as the fiancé of Lenin as written b Marcel Liebman and at the funeral of Lenin’s fiancé by Anjalika Balamkov. Both pieces are written in the form of visionary messages by those who have been sensitively observing the subtle nuances in the life of Lenin the leader. What Lenin has expressed on factors like Love and Romance have not been properly recorded.

I presume that this is the only sensitive place of reference in this context. Being a leader of a nation, at times he had lived a life of a common unassuming individual. In Chapter 36, the writer records an event of a narrow escape of Lenin from a group of vagabonds cum highwaymen. Some of his supporters who happened to shoot them had been stopped by him.

Lenin takes into consideration the nature of the onslaught. But the reader of the event gets the feeling that Lenin has been clear enough to escape from being a victim even though he lost his vehicle, a commodity which could be found later.

Global insights

At a period or a season where the genuine knowledge-seeking readers feel that the translations could usher in better global insights, this translation of an alternative form ought to prove a welcome variant. The pages are packed with experiences of varying types through dialogues, encounters, letters, meetings, incidents, challenges, and intimacies on the part of a great statesman who left a legacy of life episodes to the posterity. They, in turn, may directly or indirectly help build better personalities who will pave the way to develop the human social order.

With the demise of Lenin, many who knew him and his contributions to the world felt a grave sense of loss. One poet named TS Wallace in a poetic voice jotted down the following lines.

Lenin lies asleep in Moscow.

Lenin lies asleep in a deep, a dreamless, sleep

While the pillars of his planning swiftly rise.

To the clamour of the hammer, to the whistle of the worker

To the wonder of the world

Towards the skies

But the architect who planned lies asleep

While the harvest-heavy rains.

Flash with wheat the fenceless plains

He who broke the great blockade

Faced the famine unafraid

Rock against the world arrayed

Lies asleep lies asleep.

(Our Lenin, Moscow, 1970).

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