Book Review: Comrade Koba by Robert Littell

September 9, 2020

Comrade Koba by Robert Littell is a novel in which a child, hiding in Communist Russia from the NKVD, meets an old man who is a high ranking government official, and the two strike a strange friendship. Mr. Littell is a published author and journalist who specializes in spy novels.

Book Review: Comrade Koba by Robert Littell
My rating for Comrade Koba4
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This book attempts to explain the Stalinist regime to ten year olds, a certain smart ten year old at that. I felt that this was a smart tool to explain to everyone what happened during Joseph Stalin’s reign and make a complicated and nuanced part of history, a bit simpler.

There are parts of Comrade Koba by Robert Littell which are far-fetched, such as a group of kids whose parents been arrested surviving in Moscow, evading the NKVD. I have had to suspend my belief in reality for far more unbelievable series of events, however, than told in this book. The book goes back and forth between Leon hiding in an empty building with his friends, whose parents have also been hiding, and his “interview” with Koba. A few chapters are told from the point of view of Isabeau, Leon’s friend, which help “sell” the story of Leon and how his friends slowly believe his outlandish adventure. Besides that Isabeau’s chapters don’t move the story along, but there aren’t many and I thought they brought in a different, valuable, perspective to the novel.

It is unclear what role Koba plays in Stalin’s government, except that he is a very high, and admired advisor. Koba, like Stalin, also came from Georgia and, like Stalin, excuses the crimes which the regime commits as a path to a greater “worker’s paradise”. It is a very interesting exercise to explain such concepts to an audience, especially if they’re ten year olds. Koba, at points, seem to be trying to convince himself of the deeds he is a part of, instead of convincing Leon. Asking question after question, Leon doesn’t let Koba get away with propaganda talks, especially when it comes to his mother (and the mothers of his friends in hiding). At times, Koba gets frustrated because there simply isn’t enough words in the world to justify these crimes.

This book was short and a very fast read, I found it interesting even though, I believe, it was not meant for my age group, but more towards that of Leon’s. I know that when I was around that age, these are the type of books I enjoyed very much.

Leon Rozental is a Jewish kid, son of a heroic nuclear physicist who gave his life to save many, and a doctor. Leon’s problem? He is living in Stalinist Russia where the purge of Jewish doctors has begun and his mother, even though the widow of a hero, has been arrested.

Leon hides from the NKVD in secret rooms in a large building in Moscow. One day he meets an old man, Koba, who lives in the building and his a high ranking office in the Soviet government with insight into the internal workings of the bureaucracy in general, and Stalin specifically.

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Zohar – Man of la Book
Dis­claimer:I got this book for free
*Ama­zon links point to an affil­i­ate account

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