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The Eitingons - in conversation with Mary-Kay Wilmers


Mary-Kay Wilmers began exploring the history of her remarkable family twenty years ago, making many surprising discoveries along the way. The result is a book that throws light into some of the darkest corners of the last century. Reissued for the centenary of the Russian Revolution, The Eitingons is packed with intrigue, assassinations, and secrets of the Cold War. Join us for an evening with London Review of Books editor Mary-Kay Wilmers discussing her family memoir. 

Leonid Eitingon was a KGB killer who dedicated his life to the Soviet regime. He was in China in the early 1920s, in Spain during the Civil War, and, crucially, in Mexico when Trotsky was assassinated. 'As long as I live,' Stalin had said, 'not a hair of his head shall be touched.' It did not work out like that.

Max Eitingon was a psychoanalyst: a colleague, friend and protégé of Freud's. He was rich, secretive and - through his friendship with a famous Russian singer - implicated in the abduction of a white Russian general in Paris in 1937.

Motty Eitingon was a New York fur dealer whose connections with the Soviet Union made him the largest trader in the world. Imprisoned by the Bolsheviks, and questioned by the FBI in a state of Cold War paranoia: was Motty everybody's friend or everybody's enemy?

Comments on the books:

"The Eitingons is a riveting history of the 20th century. It deals with war, displacement, murder, espionage, the Jewish Diaspora and psychoanalysis. It explains the murder of Trotsky, the growth of Freud's teachings, the importance of the fur trade and the lure of the past. There is a lightness and a truthfulness in the narrative that makes you turn every page with pure fascination." Colm Toibin

"The Eitingtons is much more than a family history, for the author has a deep knowledge of the cultural and political context, whether of 20th-century America or the Soviet Union, in which they lived. It stands as an intimate portrait of a world that seems far removed from our own." Archie Brown, Observer

This event is part of our Women exploring Russian Culture season, accompanying the Margaret Watkins exhibition that opens on 29th November. 

Mary-Kay Wilmers is editor of London Review of Books. The event will be chaired by Charlotte Hobson.


Charlotte Hobson is an author, journalist and translator, she is author of 'Black Earth City', based on her experiences studying Russian in Voronezh, which won a Somerset Maugham Award. Her debut novel, 'The Vanishing Futurist', was published in 2016 and is on the shortlist for the 2017 Walter Scott Prize.