Review: Limonov by Emmanuel Carrere

In 1974, poet and dandy Edward Limonov left the Soviet Union to live in the United States. The bisexual, bespectacled son of a secret policeman was fond of the Ramones, fascinated by revolutionary violence, and, in his own words, a Russian punk — the antithesis of the bearded sage Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, who went into exile at the same time.

This punk wrote some scandalous memoirs and became a literary celebrity in France. Then Limonov’s life changed direction radically: After fighting for the Serb side in Bosnia in the early 1990s, he returned to Russia, where he formed the neofascist National Bolshevik party, acting as a creepy, silver-haired Pied Piper figure to gangs of alienated youths. Led by Limonov, these “Natsbols” marched through Russian cities chanting “Stalin, Beria, Gulag!” while waving a flag identical to that of the Nazis — only the swastika had been swapped for a black hammer and sickle.

Limonov’s literary friends were horrified, and his books went out of print in the West. So the French author Emmanuel Carrère was naturally quite astonished when he visited Moscow in 2007 and discovered that Limonov had become a highly respected politician who, alongside chess maestro Garry Kasparov, was one of the leaders of the anti-Putin opposition movement.

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