Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/815/18791

From The Socialist newspaper, 18 June 2014

Book review: The man who loved dogs

Niall Mulholland

Cuban writer Leonardo Padura's masterful novel, The Man Who Loved Dogs, is about the exile years of Leon Trotsky and his assassin, Roman Mercader. Acting on Stalin's orders, Mercader fatally attacked the co-leader, with Lenin, of the 1917 Russian Revolution, with an icepick, on 20 August 1940.

Padura succeeds in blending historical facts with character-driven fiction and brings narrative pace and a truthful feel to broad historical and political canvasses. The novel opens with a Cuban, Iván Cárdenas, recalling meeting a mysterious Spaniard, 'Jaime López', on the beach in the 1970s.

Cárdenas admires the strangers' dogs and they strike up an acquaintance. López claims he knew Trotsky's killer, Ramón Mercader. Cárdenas seeks out the Trotsky books from unofficial channels and begins to suspect that the man who loved dogs is actually Mercader.

Mercader

Alongside Cárdenas' story - a disillusioned communist-activist, forced to work on a veterinary magazine after petty bureaucrats censored his fiction - Padura keeps up two other biographical strands, those of Mercader and Trotsky. We follow Ramón Mercader, brought up in a bourgeois but troubled household in Catalonia, as his fanatical mother introduces him to communist politics.

While fighting for the Republicans in the Spanish Civil War, Mercader sees the Stalinist armed repression of the anarchists and Left, including the murder of the POUM leader, Andres Nin. Stalin feared a successful socialist revolution in Spain more than Franco's fascists, as it would have inspired renewed struggle for workers' democracy in Russia.

Stalinist apparatchiks pick out Mercader for a 'special task' and he is brought to Moscow for brutalising training by the GPU secret police. Mercader's mentor brings him to a session of the grotesque Moscow Trials where Old Bolsheviks were summarily tried and executed on trumped-up charges of 'counter-revolution'.

Stalin, representing a privileged bureaucracy that emerged as the result of isolation of the revolution under conditions of social and economic underdevelopment, used the 'purge trials' to consolidate his power.

Mercader takes on the identity of a Belgian, 'Jacques Mornard', and is despatched to Paris to seduce one of Trotsky's young followers, Sylvia Ageloff.

Murder

From there, Mercader is sent to New York, as a non-political businessman 'Jacson', and finally to Mexico City. He patiently infiltrates the fortified Trotsky household, in Coyoacan, to carry out his murderous task.

Padura describes Trotsky's deportation to Turkey after the defeat of the Left Opposition, and years of exile in France, Norway and Mexico.

We witness Trotsky's grief at the murder of most of his family and closest comrades by the Stalin regime. Padura sympathetically depicts Trotsky the person - courageous and unbowed yet with his own share of human frailties - and Trotsky the Marxist leader and thinker.

Following Trotsky's assassination, Mornard (Mercader) is imprisoned in Mexico. He returns to the Soviet Union and is decorated but hidden away during the supposed 'de-Stalinisation' period. Mercader spent his last years in Cuba, where he died in 1978.

Today

At the end of the novel, Padura's modern-day Cuban characters are despondent. But the ideas of revolutionary socialism, represented by Trotsky so sympathetically in this book, when taken up by the working class, can defend the gains of the Cuban revolution, sweep away bureaucratic rule and inequalities, introduce workers' democracy and see-off capitalist counter-revolution.

The Man Who Loved Dogs deserves the widest possible readership.

Why not click here to join the Socialist Party, or click here to donate to the Socialist Party.


In The Socialist 18 June 2014:


Socialist Party news and analysis

Strike back for a living wage

Report shows huge support for taxing rich

Survey shows potential for new mass workers' party

Them & Us

Kshama Sawant to speak at Socialism 2014


International socialist news and analysis

Iraq: Oil war's bloody legacy

Brazil: Upsurge in struggles of workers and homeless


Socialist Party workplace news

How should the RMT maintain Bob Crow's tradition?

Unison local government members want action on pay

Bakers call for £10 minimum wage

Escalation of FBU dispute begins

Lambeth College indefinite strike

Safety Glass workers strike for a real pay rise

Trades council conference: workers won't wait for TUC

Workplace news in brief

Come to the NSSN conference on 5 July


Socialist Party reports and campaigns

Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition campaign reports

Rhydyfelin library saved

Nottinghamshire fire cuts - "pushed to breaking point"

Orgreave 30th anniversary - solidarity and celebration

Birmingham: new Socialist Party branch

Socialist Party Summer Camp 2014


Readers' comments and reviews

"Self-employed" and exploited

Book review: The man who loved dogs

Letters to the Socialist


 

Home   |   The Socialist 18 June 2014   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate   |   PDF  |   ebook






Related links:

Trotsky:

triangleHackney & Islington Socialist Party: 10 years since the end of the war in Sri Lanka

triangleThe striking relevance of Leon Trotsky's Theory of Permanent Revolution

triangleLeon Trotsky's struggle against Stalinism

triangleLiverpool Socialist Party: Leon Trotsky's Transitional Programme

triangleManchester Socialist Party: Trotsky's 'transitional programme'

Revolution:

triangleBirmingham South West Socialist Party: Sudan - Revolution or Counter Revolution?

triangleSudan: The revolution under threat

triangleSudan: Military crackdown to break revolution

triangleCounter-revolution in Sudan

Stalin:

triangleBirmingham Socialist Party: The struggle against Stalin

triangleSouthampton Socialist Party: The local elections to be held in May

triangleWell-deserved ridicule of Stalinism is impressive, funny but flawed

Mexico:

triangleMexico: police silence on horrific attack on CWI member

triangleMexico: The movement of 68 and the massacre of Tlatelolco

Reviews and comments

Reviews and comments

11/9/19

Democracy

Capitalist 'democracy' v socialist democracy

4/9/19

Socialism

At 96 I'm more convinced of socialism than ever

4/9/19

Letters

The Socialist Inbox

28/8/19

Letters

The Socialist Inbox

28/8/19

Crime

Knife and gun crime a product of poverty and austerity

14/8/19

Health

TV: Young, British and Depressed - "What is wrong with our society that all these people are feeling this way?"

31/7/19

Teaching assistants

Huge workload, low pay and unpaid hours - a day in the life of a teaching assistant

31/7/19

Letters

The Socialist inbox

31/7/19

Aristocracy

Aristocrats are rich after all... and getting richer

17/7/19

Letters

The Socialist Inbox

3/7/19

TV

TV: Years and Years - Engaging family drama pushes confused, reactionary message

3/7/19

Letters

The Socialist inbox

26/6/19

Letters

The Socialist inbox

26/6/19

Nuclear power

Opinion: capitalism's Fukushima showed same recklessness as Stalinism's Chernobyl

19/6/19

TV

Defend free TV licences for over-75s!

triangleMore Reviews and comments articles...


Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party
Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube

LATEST POSTS

CONTACT US

Phone our national office on 020 8988 8777

Email: info@socialistparty.org.uk

Locate your nearest Socialist Party branch Text your name and postcode to 07761 818 206

Regional Socialist Party organisers:

Eastern: 0798 202 1969

East Mids: 0773 797 8057

London: 020 8988 8786

North East: 0784 114 4890

North West 07954 376 096

South East: 020 8988 8777

South West: 07759 796 478

Southern: 07833 681910

Wales: 07935 391 947

West Mids: 02476 555 620

Yorkshire: 0114 264 6551

ABOUT US

ARCHIVE

Alphabetical listing


September 2019

August 2019

July 2019

June 2019

May 2019

April 2019

March 2019

February 2019

January 2019

2018

2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

2011

2010

2009

2008

2007

2006

2005

2004

2003

2002

2001

2000

1999