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Tillabooks: Will's Book Blog

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Emma Goldman in Exile by Alice Wexler

Emma Goldman in Exile: From the Russian Revolution to the Spanish Civil War by Alice Wexler. Boston: Beacon Press, 1989. ISBN: 0-8070-7004-1

This book isn't for everyone. Unless you're really interested in the topic, you probably wouldn't enjoy it much. So who was Emma Goldman? A proponent of anarchism and the militant labor movement in the early 20th century, she also supported women's rights, free speech and free love, the rights of striking workers and of homosexuals. In other words, a radical revolutionary, a dangerous subversive in the eyes of the establishment.

Late in the year of 1919, Goldman, her long time compatriot and former lover Alexander Berkman, together with 247 other immigrant radicals, were deported from the United States to Russia. This book tells the personal story of that exile as it affected Goldman, not just the actual events, but through the liberal use of quotations from her personal correspondence, memoirs, and other published and unpublished sources, the affect on her personal life, her state of mind and her emotions.

We see that she was truly human, beset by doubts and despondency, the need to be needed, to be appreciated, struggling with the need for finding a significant work to do, an important role to play, and the need for affection and love in her personal life. These needs were often met only briefly, partially, and intermittently. The life of a radical revolutionist is often not a happy one.

This book is the sequel to an earlier volume titled Emma Goldman in America, which is the book I probably should have read first. Nevertheless, this volume is recommended for those with an interest in the subject.

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