Adam Hochschild in conversation with Isabel Allende
Saturday, May 9, 2020
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Adam Hochschild’s recently released Rebel Cinderella: From Rags to Riches to Radical tells the astonishing but forgotten story of an immigrant sweatshop worker who married an heir to a great American fortune and became one of the most charismatic radical leaders of her time.
Adam’s first book was a memoir, Half the Way Home: A Memoir of Father and Son (1986), in which he described the difficult relationship he had with his father. In The New York Times, Michiko Kakutani called the book “an extraordinarily moving portrait of the complexities and confusions of familial love.”
In The Mirror at Midnight: A South African Journey (1990; new edition, 2007) he examines the tensions of modern South Africa through the prism of the nineteenth-century Battle of Blood River, which determined whether the Boers or the Zulus would control that part of the world, as well as looking at the contentious commemoration of the event by rival groups 150 years later, at the height of the apartheid era.
In The Unquiet Ghost: Russians Remember Stalin (1994; new edition, 2003), Adam chronicles the six months he spent in Russia, traveling to Siberia and the Arctic, interviewing gulag survivors, retired concentration camp guards, former members of the secret police and countless others about Joseph Stalin’s reign of terror in the country, during which millions of people (the actual toll will never be known) died.
His Finding the Trapdoor: Essays, Portraits, Travels (1997) collects his personal essays and shorter pieces of reportage, as does a more recent collection, Lessons from a Dark Time and Other Essays (2018).
His King Leopold’s Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa (1998; new edition, 2006) is a history of the conquest of the Congo by King Léopold II of Belgium, and of the atrocities that were committed under Leopold’s private rule of the colony, events that sparked the twentieth century’s first great international human rights campaign. The book reignited interest and inquiry into Leopold’s colonial regime in the Congo, but was met by some hostility in Belgium. According to a contemporary review in The Guardian, the book “brought howls of rage from Belgium’s aging colonials and some professional [Belgian] historians even as it has climbed the country’s best-seller lists.”
Adam’s Bury the Chains: Prophets and Rebels in the Fight to Free an Empire’s Slaves (2005) is about the antislavery movement in the British Empire. The story of how abolitionists organized to change the mind of the British public about slavery has attracted attention from contemporary climate change activists, who see an analogy to their own work.
In 2011 Adam published To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914–1918, which looks at the era of the First World War in terms of the struggle between those who felt the war was a noble crusade and those who felt it was not worth the sacrifice of millions of lives. His 2016 Spain in Our Hearts: Americans in the Spanish Civil War, 1936–1939 follows a dozen characters through that conflict, among them volunteer soldiers and medical workers, journalists who covered the war, and a little-known American oilman who sold Francisco Franco most of the fuel for his military.
Visit the Book Passage website to have any of Adam’s books delivered right to your door.
You’re sure to enjoy these Book Passage favorites:
Rebel Cinderella: From Rags to Riches to Radical, the Epic Journey of Rose Pastor Stokes
King Leopold's Ghost
Spain in Our Hearts: Americans in the Spanish Civil War, 1936–1939
Bury the Chains: Prophets and Rebels in the Fight to Free an Empire's Slaves
A Personal Note from Adam Hochschild.
Sent May 10th, following his Conversations with Authors session.
My thanks to all of you who joined our conversation yesterday, to Book Passage for hosting it, and to Isabel Allende for her generous introduction and questions.
I urge you to do what I’ve just done, which is to go to GoFundMe or to follow this link or the one at the bottom of this email to make a donation to support Book Passage. Keeping independent bookstores thriving is important and tough enough in normal times; during this endless lockdown which is so benefiting the Googles and Amazons of the world, their survival is more important than ever.
Some books I’ve enjoyed in recent months:
- Isabel Allende’s A Long Petal of the Sea. A Long Petal of the Sea:
- And if you don’t know her earlier work, try The House of the Spirits and Paula: A Memoir
- Joseph Roth’s The Radetzky March
- Ivo Andric’s The Bridge on the Drina
- Carolyn Forché’s What You Have Heard Is True: A Memoir of Witness and Resistance
And finally I’ve been reading an intriguing book not yet published–but I’m sure Book Passage would let you place an advance order – Sophy Robert’s The Lost Pianos of Siberia (published August 4th).