Top Menu

Radek: A Novel


In this, bestselling author Stefan Heym’s last historical novel, we become intimate with the story of the maverick and internationalist Karl Radek, known as the editor of the newspaper of record throughout the Soviet era, Isvestia. Beginning as Lenin’s companion at the dawning of the October Revolution, Radek later became Stalin’s favorite intellectual – only to find himself entangled in the great purges of the late 1930s and scripting his own trial. Heym reveals Radek as a brilliant Bolshevik journalist and politician whose enormous talent as a writer, political acumen, continuous curiosity carried him through event after event as he found himself at the center of the Communist world.

Radek was such a controversial and perennially ambiguous personality that even his historical biography seems a work of fiction. With his thick glasses and most non-Aryan appearance, he was what the French call beau-laid, and rumors spun around his torrid affair with the famously beautiful Larisa Reisner, a “young woman who flashed across the revolutionary sky like a burning meteor, blinding many.” In the struggles of the revolutionary movement Radek changed sides several times and came into conflict with Stalin, was exiled to Siberia, capitulated and resumed his editorial duties at Isvestia – only to get caught up in the purge trials and sentenced to prison, where he died.

Heym sculpts credible conversations with Lenin, Luxemburg, Liebknecht, Trotsky, Stalin, and many others (all seen from Radek’s perspective), marked by what some might have seen as distinctively Jewish argumentative skills and humor. As we follow him at every turn of the wheel of fate come to know Radek as a man haunted by the fear that the insurgency will cease to move forward, living his life as a frenzied chase in pursuit of the continuation of the revolution, until the very end. Originally published in Munich in 1995, this first-ever English translation of Radek fashions the inner voice of a unique figure in the global revolutionary wave of the first half of the twentieth century.


What people are saying about Radek: A Novel

When a photo of pipe-smoking Radek fell out of a volume of his writings, I placed it above the desk of my first college apartment. There he stared at me, for years, and I stared back. Radek is one of the most remarkable, even romantic, figures in all the twentieth century Left. He lived a life like none other, offered brilliant views on many subjects, and died a martyr. We have been waiting forever for a novel about him.”

Paul Buhle, authorized biographer of C.L.R. James

“A riveting, beautifully-paced novel with a fascinating and complex man at its center. And although Radek is fiction, what a wonderful introduction, for today’s socialists, to such a crucial history: ideological debates,  tragically flawed humans and all.”

Liza Featherstone, Jacobin magazine

‘Victor Grossman’s introduction to East German writer Stefan Heym’s book, Radek, A Novel, could not be more timely. Amidst a crisis of capitalism, marked by vast economic inequality, endless war, rising authoritarianism and looming environmental catastrophe, the world today cries out for a renewed socialist revolutionary movement led by people of the high moral character, intellect, independence, and dedication of Karl Radek. Rediscovering his story is important in helping us to better understand the triumphs and tragedies of the world communist movement of the 20th century and can inspire us to struggle today for a better world.’

Jeremy Kuzmarov, author of The Russians are Coming, Again: The First Cold War as Tragedy, the Second as Farce

‘Karl Benrgardovich Radek was one of the founders and protectors of the first global revolution, and he was also one of its greatest victims. This great revolutionary’s life course serves as a significant lesson for those who seek a world beyond capital as a condition for the liberation of humankind in the 21st century.”

Tamás Krausz, Professor of Russian History and President of the board of the Hungarian Marxist quarterly Eszmélet, Prize-winning author of Reconstructing Lenin: An Intellectual Biography


Stefan Heym, the bestselling German author, was Hitler’s youngest literary exile. Having fled Nazism, he was soon enough forced to flee McCarthyism, circling back to what had in the meantime become the German Democratic Republic of East Germany. After the West German takeover, Heym ran on the ticket of the Party of Democratic Socialism and was elected to the Bundestag in 1995, entering the very same parliament building he had seen on fire as he fled Germany in 1933. He is the author of over two dozen books in English and German on a wide array of topics, including Nazis in America (1938), Goldsborough (1953) and The King David Report (1973). Alexander Locascio, translator of this book from German to English, has done many translations for Monthly Review Press, including, most recently, Michael Heinrich’s How to read Marx’s ‘Capital,‘ as well as Karl Marx and the Birth of Modern Society and An Introduction to the Three Volumes of Karl Marx’s Capital.

You can read some excerpts here.

Publication Date: 5/23/22

Number of Pages: 576

Paperback ISBN: 978-1-58367-955-5

Cloth ISBN: 978-1-58367-956-2

eBook ISBN: 978-1-58367-957-9