Somewhat provocatively, I intend to reread this explicitly politicized autobiography through less political optics, in order to indicate which meanings, arguably, were important for the author. Approaching an analysis of My Life, one should emphasize its subtitle, Opyt avtobiografii, which was originally translated into English somewhat misleadingly as An Attempt at an Autobiography. This formulation is not coincidental; on the contrary, it is crucial for understanding the place of autobiographical writing in Trotskii’s way of thinking and writing. Moreover, My Life appears as one of the turning points and central nodes in Trotskii’s auto- and biographical narratives, which reveal continuity and comprehensiveness through their multiple evolutions. Although it was not revised in his later years, My Life should be read in this broad context of Trotskii’s writings. Thus, the first section outlines the variety of Trotskii’s attempts at an autobiography with a special focus on their background and preconditions. In the case of My Life, the aim of this chapter is, broadly speaking, to map out both its main controversies, but also to stress some marginal issues of rather individual nature.
Leon Trotsky was not only an outstanding writer and speaker amongst Marxist politicians of his time, but he also could be named as one of the most well-known (auto)biographer. It was not only politics, that differed him from other high-ranking Bolsheviks, but it was a culture as well. Many of Trotsky’s rivals accused Trotsky of being extreme individualistic, and that was successful effective strategy of presenting him as an alien to collectivist ideology. However, if to consider Trotsky’s biographical narratives in complex, the individualism was somewhat correct characteristic, as Trotsky indeed pointed the role of real persons, including of his own, in the history. Until recently, scholarly treatments of this issue have largely taken on Trotsky’s autobiography titled “My life: An Attempt at an Autobiography” (1929), yet this celebrated book had a certain background. The aim of article is to re-examine Trotsky’s literary and political activity in the context of his (auto)biographical texts, taking the period of the Russian civil war as a case-study. The balance of pragmatics and poetics in his texts was reflected by Trotsky himself during the early period of the Civil War, when he publicly emphasized that he did not like the «military style», but «got used to using the style of a publicist in life and literature». Trotsky's subsequent activities demonstrated that the balance between the dynamics of these two styles was determined not only by politics, but also by the author's deeply rooted ideas about the place of his own «self» in writing.