4 JULY 1952, Page 50

My Uncle Joe. By Budu Svanidze. (Heine- may. 10s. 6d.)

BUDU SVANIDZE really is Stalin's nephew.- He left the other side of the Iron Curtain for ever after the war for an unfashionable reason : love. He retains a genuine personal affection for the uncle whom the rest of the world has adopted only with ironical affec- tion as its own, and at least a negative attitude to his regime. These unusual ingredients in a book about Russia today ought to make it more interesting than most, but in fact My Uncle Joe is almost too slight for them to count. It is little more than a snapshot album : Stalin at his first wedding in 1904, Stalin and Molotov editing Pravda together in 1913c Stalin being arrested dis- guised as a woman, Stalin cheating at croquet during the great purge of 1936, Stalin playing volley ball with Malenkov and Zhukovin, June, 1941—and other occasions on which this favourite nephew was lucky enough to be there with his camera. As in all snapshot albums, some of the figures are posed a little self-consciously (" Aha 1 " Timoschenko cried. " What is it ? "—but these are the only words he speaks in the book). And a great deal of colloquial dialogue has been introduced (" I'll break the backs of all the rotten riff- raff who want to plunge our country into corruption "), so that one suspects the clandestine collaboration of some smooth- tongued hack. But at least the possibility that Stalin is a human being (shrewd, genial, rather conservative, and ill) and that Soviet administration is not just an infernal machine emerges strongly. And anything, however slight, that makes it easier to see the present world situation in terms of reality rather than myth is of value.

R. K.