The Eitingons: A Twentieth Century Story

Overview

Mary-Kay Wilmers began looking into aspects of her remarkable family twenty years ago. The result is a book of astonishing scope and originality that throws light into some of the darkest corners of the last century. At the center of the story stands the author herself— ironic, precise, searching, and stylish—wondering not only about where she is from, but about what she is entitled to know.
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The Eitingons: A Twentieth Century Story

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Overview

Mary-Kay Wilmers began looking into aspects of her remarkable family twenty years ago. The result is a book of astonishing scope and originality that throws light into some of the darkest corners of the last century. At the center of the story stands the author herself— ironic, precise, searching, and stylish—wondering not only about where she is from, but about what she is entitled to know.
Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Unlike the hordes of amateur historians who have mobbed the world’s libraries over the past decade on the theory that reconstructing lineage equates to personal discovery, Wilmers is up to something that commands general attention.”—Christopher Glazek, New Yorker

“Wilmers’ adventures in digging through [the Eitingons’] lost world makes Mary-Kay one of the book’s most intriguing characters.”—Harper’s

“Like characters in some Russian Jewish Stalinist Freudian capitalist 20th-century fairy tale, the Eitingons are larger than life, their fates bitter and all too human.”—New York Times

“A superbly written book, The Eitingons is much more than a family history, for the author has a deep knowledge of the cultural and political context, whether of twentieth-century America or the Soviet Union, in which they lived. It stands as an intimate portrait of a world that seems far removed from our own.”—The Observer

The Eitingons is a riveting history of the twentieth century. It deals with war, displacement, murder, espionage, the Jewish diaspora and psychoanalysis. It explains Trotsky’s assassination, the growth of Freud’s teachings, the importance of the fur trade, the uses of money and the lure of the past. There is a lightness and a truthfulness in the narrative that makes you turn every page with pure fascination.”—Colm Tóibín

“Wilmers pieces together what she can of the shadowy life of Leonid Eitingon, a high-level KGB killer ... and looks for clues that her grandfather’s cousin Max, a protégé of Freud in Berlin, and Motty, a New York fur trader, were also working for Stalin. What emerges is a fascinating story of family secrets and silences.”—New Statesman

“Well researched, bold, and revealing, Wilmers’s book transforms a series of dark family secrets into an illuminating experience for anybody brave enough to delve into the enigma of family history.”—Publishers Weekly

“Compelling... [Wilmers] has produced a deeply-researched family chronicle, which bears only a trace resemblance to the memoirs that dominate the book industry.”—Barnes and Noble Review

New Yorker
“Unlike the hordes of amateur historians who have mobbed the world’s libraries over the past decade on the theory that reconstructing lineage equates to personal discovery, Wilmers is up to something that commands general attention.”
Harper's
Wilmers’ adventures in digging through [the Eitingons’] lost world makes Mary-Kay one of the book’s most intriguing characters.
New York Times
Like characters in some Russian Jewish Stalinist Freudian capitalist 20th-century fairy tale, the Eitingons are larger than life, their fates bitter and all too human.
Daily Telegraph
Wilmers is a true scholar of these times and a sophisticated narrator.
Sunday Telegraph
An extraordinary memoir … Wilmers has turned the raw material of her family into literature.
Herald (Scotland)
A truly fascinating family history, almost epic in its tracing back and forth across the Atlantic, and full of what heights human beings can reach, as well as the depths.
New York Times
“Like characters in some Russian Jewish Stalinist Freudian capitalist 20th-century fairy tale, the Eitingons are larger than life, their fates bitter and all too human.”
Harper's
“Wilmers’ adventures in digging through [the Eitingons’] lost world makes Mary-Kay one of the book’s most intriguing characters.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781844679003
  • Publisher: Verso Books
  • Publication date: 5/2/2012
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 492
  • Sales rank: 1,422,630
  • Product dimensions: 5.10 (w) x 7.70 (h) x 1.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Mary-Kay Wilmers is the editor of the London Review of Books, the largest- selling literary publication in Europe. She has written for the Listener, TLS and The New Yorker.
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgements ix

Note on the Soviet Secret Service xi

The Eitingon Family xii-xiii

Part One

1 Embarrassment 3

2 Mexico 6

3 HMS Aquitania 13

4 Objectivity 19

5 Languages 24

6 Cold War 28

7 The Pale 37

8 Anti-Semitism 43

9 1917 54

Part Two

10 New York 63

11 The Union 78

12 Moscow 94

13 Family 103

14 Bandits 113

15 China 126

16 Constantinople 149

17 Vienna 161

18 Berlin 177

Part Three

19 Sliding 197

20 Friends 212

21 Palestine 233

22 Songbird 243

23 Spain 265

24 Success 288

Part Four

25 Back on the Road 313

26 War 328

27 The Bomb 348

Part Five

28 The Fall 365

29 Doctors'Plot 386

30 Stalin's Death 399

31 In Vladimir 409

32 Last Wife 425

33 At the Undertaker's 442

Bibliography 445

Index 455

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