The Last Englishman : the Double Life of Arthur Ransome

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9780571222629: The Last Englishman : the Double Life of Arthur Ransome

Arthur Ransome is best known for the twelve immortal ''Swallows and Amazons'' books he wrote on his return from Russia in 1928. From his prose he appears a genial and gentle Englishman, who, like his protagonists, pursued benign maritime adventures. Nothing could be further from the truth. By the time he wrote his masterpieces, the most interesting episodes of his life were well behind him. For Ransome led a double, and often tortured, life. Before his fame as an author, he was notorious for very different reasons: between 1917 and 1924, he was the Russian correspondent for the Daily News and the Manchester Guardian, and his sympathy for the Bolshevik regime gave him unparalleled access to its leaders, policies, politics, and plots. He was also the lover, and later the husband, of Evgenia Shelepina, Trotsky's private secretary, as well as friends with Karl Radek, the Bolshevik's Chief of Propaganda, and Felix Dzerzhinsky, founder of the secret police. In denying the horrors that followed the Revolution, and in considering Stalin a latter-day Cromwell, he was the bane of the British establishment. Yet his contacts earned him not only the admiration of liberals, both in the U.K. and the U.S., but a place in the British Secret Intelligence Service.

In this biography, Chambers traces Ransome's life back to his earliest childhood, his struggles as a hack writer, and his flight from a disastrous marriage, then on to the decade he spent in Russia during that country's violent, formative years, ostensibly as a journalist, but more accurately as a spy (albeit a sympathetic one). The book's genius lies in Chambers's complete understanding of the Revolution's complexity, the rise and fall of the factions, the extreme personalities who guided it and were often sacrificed to it. He explores the tensions Ransome always felt between his allegiance to England's decencies and the egalitarian Bolshevik vision, between competing romantic attachments, between the Lake Country he loved and always considered home and the lure of the Russian steppes to which he repeatedly returned. What emerges is not only history, recorded by someone who was there to witness it, but also the story of an immensely troubled and conflicted human being not entirely at home in either culture or country.

Winner of the Biographers' Club Best First Biography Prize, 2009

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About the Author :

Roland Chambers is a biographer and children's book author. He divides his time between London and Connecticut.

From Booklist :

This sturdy biography contains some surprises for those readers who know Ransome (1884–1967) as the author of the Swallows and Amazons series of children’s books. As it turns out, Ransome was also a political journalist, a spy for the British SIS, and an outspoken defender of the Russian Revolution—all of this before he wrote the gentle children’s stories with which he is most closely associated. This is one of those biographies that succeeds on the strength of its story rather than on the liveliness of its writing, which is staid and scholarly. But the life itself is so compelling, and so unexpectedly full of intrigue, that we are kept, if not spellbound, at least too interested to put the book down. Ransome scholars and fans of the children’s series will be drawn to the book, of course, but it will also prove satisfying to readers with an interest in the period surrounding the Russian Revolution. Like American journalist John Reed, Ransome witnessed the upheaval from the inside, not merely as an observer of events but as an involved participant. --David Pitt

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Description du livre FABER FABER, United Kingdom, 2010. Paperback. État : New. Main.. Language: English . Brand New Book. Arthur Ransome was, from 1930 to the early 1960s, what J.K. Rowling is today: author of a series of children s books which shaped the imagination of a generation. Rooted in the heyday of the British Empire, Swallows and Amazons and its sequels described a nostalgic Utopia. Yet before that, Arthur Ransome was famous for different reasons. Between 1917 and 1924, as Russian correspondent for the Daily News and Manchester Guardian, he was an uncritical apologist for the Bolshevik regime, with unique access to the revolutionary leaders. As the Red Army engaged with an Allied invasion of Russia, Ransome was conducting a love affair with Evgenia Shelepina, private secretary to Leon Trotsky, then Soviet Commissar for War. As the intimate friend of Karl Radek, the Bolshevik Chief of Propaganda, he denied the Red Terror and compared Lenin to Oliver Cromwell. No English journalist was considered more controversial, or more damaging to British security. At Whitehall, he was accused of being the paid agent of a hostile power and only narrowly escaped prosecution for treason. This is a fascinating, often chilling revision of an English icon through the most formative decade of the twentieth century. N° de réf. du libraire AA99780571222629

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Description du livre FABER FABER, United Kingdom, 2010. Paperback. État : New. Main.. Language: English . Brand New Book. Arthur Ransome was, from 1930 to the early 1960s, what J.K. Rowling is today: author of a series of children s books which shaped the imagination of a generation. Rooted in the heyday of the British Empire, Swallows and Amazons and its sequels described a nostalgic Utopia. Yet before that, Arthur Ransome was famous for different reasons. Between 1917 and 1924, as Russian correspondent for the Daily News and Manchester Guardian, he was an uncritical apologist for the Bolshevik regime, with unique access to the revolutionary leaders. As the Red Army engaged with an Allied invasion of Russia, Ransome was conducting a love affair with Evgenia Shelepina, private secretary to Leon Trotsky, then Soviet Commissar for War. As the intimate friend of Karl Radek, the Bolshevik Chief of Propaganda, he denied the Red Terror and compared Lenin to Oliver Cromwell. No English journalist was considered more controversial, or more damaging to British security. At Whitehall, he was accused of being the paid agent of a hostile power and only narrowly escaped prosecution for treason. This is a fascinating, often chilling revision of an English icon through the most formative decade of the twentieth century. N° de réf. du libraire AA99780571222629

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