Tangled Loyalties: The Life and Times of Ilya EhrenburgJournalist, novelist, poet – Ilya Ehrenburg (1891-1967) was one of the most important Russian cultural figures of the twentieth century. A political exile from czarist Russia, he spent years in Paris as a bohemian poet and later became Izvestia correspondent in Western Europe. He was one of the few distinguished Soviet writers to survive Stalin. Ehrenburg’s 1954 novel The Thaw lent its name to the critical period following Stalin’s death. His memoirs People, Years, Life outraged the Kremlin in the sixties for describing a “conspiracy of silence” that had prevailed under the dictator. In this groundbreaking biography, Joshua Rubenstein tells the story of one of Russia’s most controversial and enigmatic figures.

Ehrenburg was a young Bolshevik who turned anti-Communist, then two decades later became a spokesman for Stalin. He was an assimilated Jew who fought antisemitism, and a Russian patriot who was both mistrusted by orthodox Communists and denounced by Hitler as his main enemy. As a Jew, he was said to have betrayed his people; as a writer, his talent; as a man, his conscience.

Yet Ehrenburg retained a measure of personal integrity. He helped other writers, including Anna Akhmatova, Osip Mandelstam, and Boris Pasternak. He battled censorship and championed European art in Moscow. His circle of friends included Pablo Picasso, Amedeo Modigliani, Diego Rivera, Ernest Hemingway, Isaac Babel, and André Malraux.

In vivid detail, Tangled Loyalties draws extensively on material from Russian archives and Ehrenburg’s private correspondence, and from interviews with scores of family members and friends. The book uncovers the man behind the controversies, whose personal life was as unconventional as the career he fashioned.

Joshua Rubenstein portrays Ehrenburg as a man of great gifts whose life embodies all the tragic dilemmas of a Russian intellectual under communism. This penetrating biography has rekindled interest in a man whose career challenges our assumptions about collaboration, dissent, and moral survival. (Published by Basic Books in 1996. A paperback edition is available from the University of Alabama Press.) Tangled Loyalties has also been published in Hebrew (Mossad Bialik); Spanish (Siglo XXI Espana); and Russian (Akademichesky Proyekt).

“A solid and eloquent work.”

– Tomas Venclova, The New Republic

“A convincing, judicious, and enjoyable biography.”

– Richard Lourie, The New York Times Book Review

“Joshua Rubenstein has written a brilliant analysis and biography of Ilya Ehrenburg, the famous Russian iconoclast and critic. It is a pity that Ehrenburg is not alive to appreciate the quality of this work and the merit which is thus cast on his reputation. “

– Harrison Salisbury