Peasant Russia, Civil War: The Volga Countryside in Revolution (1917-1921) , by Orlando Figes (Oxford University Press, $72). Why did the Bolsheviks win the civil war that followed the October revolution of 1917? After all, their support was centered mainly in the big cities among members of a working class that numbered only 3 to 4 million people out of a total population of 160 million. In other words, 4 out of 5 Russians were peasants. The author of this important work, a young British historian, was permitted unparalleled access to the Soviet archives. His is the first non-Soviet history of the relationship between the Bolsheviks and the peasants in the critical period of the revolution. Figes concludes that the Bolsheviks prevented a counterrevolution in rural Russia by destroying the power of the landowners, strengthening the middle peasantry, eliminating rural poverty and , encouraging literacy. "Once the famine crisis had been overcome and the economy restored to peaceful conditions, the Russian peasantry enjoyed a period of of unparalled freedom and well-being during the 1920s." This was to end with the massive upheavals and terrors of Stalin's collectivization program.
A Ravel Reader: Correspondence, Articles, Interviews , compiled and edited by Arbie Orenstein (Columbia University Press, $49). Anyone interested in Ravel-composer of "Bolero," "Pavane pour une Infante Defunte," etc. etc.-should start with this reader: It is the kind of work of scholarship and love that artists dream of receiving, and so seldom do. In some 600 pages Orenstein offers letters to and from Ravel (friends include Colette, Cocteau, Stravinsky), articles and criticism written by the composer, interviews with him, memoirs by his contemporaries, two dozen pages of photographs, and a long series of appendices that includes a discography, a listing of the master's personal record collection and the locations of important Ravel sourc material. Couple all this with Orenstein's authoritative introduction and notes and the result is a major scholarly resource and a delightful browsing book.
Lydia and Maynard: The Letters of John Maynard Keynes and Lydia Lopokova , edited by Polly Hill and [Richard Howard] Keynes (Scribners, $24.95). Bloomsbury fans, having finished with the diaries and letters of Virginia Woolf, have lately been able to enjoy the letters of James and Alix Strachey (brother and sister-in-law of Lytton, editors and translators of Freud) and may now turn to this charming, improbable and highly romantic correspondence. The economist Keynes, though basically homosexual, found himself deeply attracted to Lopokova, one of the leading ballerinas of Diaghilev's Ballet Russe. Their flirtatious, bantering notes-written in a rather broken English by Lopokova-reveal the growth of a mutual passion that culminated in a long and happy marriage. It is delightful to think of super-intellectual Keynes as Maynarochka and impossible to resist Lopokova: "Last night while undressing somehow I upset the cup with the ink, so halph of my body is a study in white and black, it does not come off with water, I went into salt water (the ocean was glorious even with stiff neck), but still I think traces will be noticed for a good while."
Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction or distribution is prohibited without permission.