Thursday, February 4, 2021

Comrade Koba

Loneliness. The precocious and naïve protagonist of Robert Littell’s novel titled, Comrade Koba, is a ten-and-a-half-year-old boy named Leon Rozental who lives in an apartment building called the House on the Embankment, near the Kremlin. After Leon watches from a hidden room as the secret police arrest his mother, he and some friends find ways to survive on their own as they navigate secret passageways and find money to eat in the building’s cafeteria. While on his own, Leon stumbles into a passageway to a large apartment where armed guards are protecting an elderly man. The lonely old man summons Leon into the apartment where the two spend much time in conversation over several weeks. Leon believes the man to be a high ranking official, but he doesn’t realize that he is speaking with Stalin. Thanks to Littell’s wisdom and insight, we see the elderly Stalin reflecting in loneliness about his life and finding a nonjudgmental and receptive audience in young Leon. We find Leon to be a prodigy beyond his years, finding a way to get what he wants from the old man. At times funny and always poignant, I loved this thoughtful character study set at the time of Stalin’s death. Rating: Five-star (I love it) Click here to purchase Comrade Koba from

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