Yuri Slezkine
Wednesday, November 8, 2017, 6:00 p.m., Mechanics' Institute Library, 57 Post St San Francisco, CA 94104, Admission $10.00, Members Free

City Lights in conjunction with the Mechanics' Institute Library and Princeton University Press present

Yuri Slezkine

in conversation with Bertrand M. Patenaude

at the Mechanics' Institute Library, 57 Post St San Francisco, CA 94104, Admission $10.00, Members Free. Visit https://www.milibrary.org/ for ticket availability

discussing his new book

The House of Government: A Saga of the Russian Revolution

from Princeton University Press

On the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution, the epic story of an enormous apartment building where Communist true believers lived before their destruction

The House of Government is unlike any other book about the Russian Revolution and the Soviet experiment. Written in the tradition of Tolstoy's War and Peace, Grossman's Life and Fate, and Solzhenitsyn's The Gulag Archipelago, Yuri Slezkine's gripping narrative tells the true story of the residents of an enormous Moscow apartment building where top Communist officials and their families lived before they were destroyed in Stalin's purges. A vivid account of the personal and public lives of Bolshevik true believers, the book begins with their conversion to Communism and ends with their children's loss of faith and the fall of the Soviet Union.

Completed in 1931, the House of Government, later known as the House on the Embankment, was located across the Moscow River from the Kremlin. The largest residential building in Europe, it combined 505 furnished apartments with public spaces that included everything from a movie theater and a library to a tennis court and a shooting range. Slezkine tells the chilling story of how the building's residents lived in their apartments and ruled the Soviet state until some eight hundred of them were evicted from the House and led, one by one, to prison or their deaths.

Drawing on letters, diaries, and interviews, and featuring hundreds of rare photographs, The House of Government weaves together biography, literary criticism, architectural history, and fascinating new theories of revolutions, millennial prophecies, and reigns of terror. The result is an unforgettable human saga of a building that, like the Soviet Union itself, became a haunted house, forever disturbed by the ghosts of the disappeared.

Yuri Slezkine is the Jane K. Sather Professor of History at the University of California, Berkeley. His books include The Jewish Century (Princeton), which won the National Jewish Book Award.

Bertrand M. Patenaude is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution and a lecturer in history and international relations at Stanford University. His most recent book is Trotsky: Downfall of a Revolutionary, published by HarperCollins in 2009. His first book The Big Show in Bololand: The American Relief Expedition to Soviet Russia in the Famine of 1921 (Stanford University Press, 2002) won the 2003 Marshall Shulman Book Prize and is the basis for a forthcoming documentary film produced for the award-winning PBS series American Experience.


"A Soviet War and Peace."--Sheila Fitzpatrick, London Review of Books

"Mammoth and profusely researched. . . . A work begging to be debated; Slezkine aggregates mountains of detail for an enthralling account of the rise and fall of the revolutionary generation."--Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)

"To roam the corridors of the House of Government, following the endlessly intersecting stories of Bolshevik families at home, is to come as close as a distant reader can to the horror, strangeness and disorientating pathos of the revolution. Slezkine's scholarship and his powerful historical imagination take us into the heart of the confrontation between the everyday reality of Bolshevism and its extreme millenarian metaphysics. . . . The meaning of The House of Government is in reading it, right to the end. It is a monumental edifice of scholarship and historical insight."--Rachel Polonsky, Standpoint

"This comprehensive work of scholarship and storytelling will appeal to readers with an interest in the Russian Revolution, the early Soviet Union, and the pitfalls of utopian community building."--Laurie Unger Skinner, Library Journal


"An utterly gripping masterwork. As residents of the House of Government enjoy privileged childhoods, fall in love and marry, rise to power, betray each other, and are arrested and shot, we learn about the peculiar nature of Bolshevism and get a new history of Russia. But the book’s compelling brilliance is its living organic nature--a mixture of historical narrative, novel, and family saga with echoes of Grossman, Pasternak, Solzhenitsyn, and even Tolstoy."--Simon Sebag Montefiore, author of Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar


Books related to this event:

Product image
The House of Government
A Saga of the Russian Revolution
2017 Edition
On the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution, the epic story of an enormous apartment building where Communist true believers lived before their destruction.