I fear that I'll be even more gnomic and inaccessible in the next year, as I pare back my presence in the world with an eye towards Scroogedom. I spent the weekend watching old anime & reading a book which the rest of the blogsphere was talking about four years ago - Koba the Dread: Laughter and the Twenty Million.
Koba the Dread is more valuable as a literary tract than true history - it's not really scholarly in the accepted sense. But Amis, as a novelist of stature and talent, knows how to turn a phrase, and does a rapping good job at manipulating & magnifying the metaphors & similes of the various scholars which he summarizes - Conquest, Tucker, Solzhenitsyn, Shalamov, etc. I have to admit that I've never read the Gulag Archipelago, or any of the other primary or secondary works on the Russian catastrophe, so I'm not exactly the best of audiences for this sort of thing.
But I teared up at the end, when Amis discusses how his infant daughter, in a fit of terrifying tears, was nick-named by his household after a Russian prison, and that nickname stuck throughout her childhood: Clio, named after the muse of history, became Butryka, the least of the Soviet hells. Ahh, I'd have to quote a dozen paragraphs to reproduce the effect. I've seen Amis quoted enough as it is. If you're curious, read the book.