The historian, who died this week at 98, was right about Stalin and Pound, as well as just about every ideological evil of the 20th century. Robert Conquest, who died on Tuesday at 98, was a historian, a novelist, a literary critic and a poet, although his genius (I use the word as discriminatingly as possible) was that he managed to exhibit the qualities of all four roles simultaneously. In a century of overspecialization, he partook of many subjects expertly, usually outclassing those singularly dedicated to one.
Consider this passage from his seminal study of the Stalinist purges, The Great Terror, which first appeared in 1968, when establishing the facts about a closed society was as much a matter of decryption and deduction as of research and recordation. (The book would be reissued in 1990, and then in 2007, as a “reassessment” which mainly reassessed just how prescient and correct the author had been before the opening of the Soviet archives). Conquest is describing the early internal opponents of Stalinism, all of whom would be jailed, shot, or exiled under varying circumstances:....To Read More.....
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