A Review of In Exile from St Petersburg adapted and edited by Michael Atherton

Reviewed by Carl Delprat

In Exile from St Petersburg
The Life and Times of Abram Saulovich Kagan Book Publisher as told by his son Anatol
Adapted and edited by Michael Atherton
Brandl & Schlesinger
ISBN 9780648176404, March 2018, $29.99au

What an amazing story and what an immense amount of information packed into just 232 pages. In Exile from Petersburg takes you right into the life of a high calibre intellectual named Abram Saulovich Kagan and is set within the turbulent times of early 20th century Europe. His son Anatol Abramovich Kagan contributed to this informative biographical account, he also happened to be the father-in-law of the book’s editor, Michael Atherton. This book is well presented in an easy to read and informative style. The chapters contain a chronological account of the life and times of an extraordinary man and are never padded or unnecessarily drawn out.

Strap on your seatbelts and prepare for a time trip through revolutions, the emergence of fascism, political intimidation, anti Semitic persecution, and one man’s determined work ethic that somehow manages to overcome every obstacle placed before him throughout this very exceptional life. As the novel is somewhat narrative, perhaps I best give the reader a brief rundown on its content.

The story commences in a small township named Lyady in Belorussia with the birth of Abram Saulovich Kagan and the date is the 20th of April 1889. We then journey through Abram’s school years, his university period and as a young man in St. Petersburg through to his marriage. As a Jew, there were many career limitations imposed upon him and he avoided participation in the First World War by joining the Military Industrial Committee. Around this time the multi-lingual Abram joined a revolutionary unit and became involved in the printing industry. He then continued with that occupation throughout his working life. Now enter the Russian Revolution and all its associated terrors. Abram printed and edited leaflets for Lenin, (who he disagreed with politically) and his publishing business prospered.

By the middle of 1921 over a million people had fled Russia and Berlin had now become the indubitable centre of Russian immigration. His business trips took him to Czechoslovakia, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, France and Italy. Abram Saulovich Kagan continued his publishing activity in this adopted city until his expulsion from Germany in 1938. This book is peppered with social and political celebrities from this time frame, a mixture of the profound and infamous that so often filled newspapers and triggered public awareness. Following a hasty exit away from European fascism, Abram Saulovich Kagan eventually arrives in the USA and ultimately returns to his publishing enterprise. Abram then choses to explore and specialise in the field of psychology and this becomes his main printing venture.

I found this interesting trip through history an invigorating experience and I felt myself easily immersed within the various time frames of this century. This was certainly a very big project to take on, to give a detailed account of a man’s total life, including multiple references in just one short book and I congratulate everyone involved. Thankfully a compiled listing of all mentioned personalities accompanies this biography within a 59-page attachment titled ‘NOTES.’ So, there are many more interesting roads of history to research if the reader so desires.

About the reviewer: Carl Delprat is a prolific storyteller. His home is the Australian coastal city of Newcastle, New South Wales. Find his books at: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/CarlDelprat