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Dictionary of Literary Influences

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Trotsky, Leon

join the Bolshevik Party and played a leading role in preparations for the October uprising. This raised Trotsky to the pinnacle of his power, serving first as Bolshevik commissar for foreign relations and then as commissar for war.

As Bolshevik commissar of war, he galvanized the Russian peasantry and led them to several victories during the Russian Civil War. He accepted and collaborated with Lenin’s style of leadership which involved ruthless centralism, iron discipline, and a cult of authority.

Trotsky’s political fortunes drastically declined after Lenin’s death in 1924. Josef Stalin’s politics of “Socialism in One Country” trumped Trotsky’s theory of Permanent Revolution, which was seen as having the potential of involving Russia in international adventures of a dangerous nature. Trotsky’s theory of Permanent Revolution maintained that revolution could not stop at the bourgeois/democratic stage but would have to follow up the liquidation of absolutism and feudalism with an immediate socialist transformation which would set the stage for socialist revolutions throughout the world.

In 1928, Trotsky was banished to Alma-Alta in Soviet Turkestan; in 1929 he was expelled from the Soviet Union and forced to take up residence on the Turkish island of Prinkipo. Efforts to reside in France and Norway were undermined by harassment by the respective governments of those countries, and in 1936, he moved to Mexico. In 1940, Ramon Mercador, believed to be a Stalinist agent, murdered Trotsky outside of Mexico City.

In My Life: An Attempt at an Autobiography (1931), Trotsky observes: “In my inner life, not only during my school years but throughout my youth, nature and individuals occupied a lesser place than books and ideas.” He eagerly read such authors as Lev Tolstoy, Nikolay Nekrassov, Aleksandr Pushkin, and Charles Dickens. The social critical impulses in Dickens’s Oliver Twist in terms of a sympathy for the impoverished made a strong impression on him.

As he developed toward becoming a revolutionary, Trotsky was strongly drawn toward such philosophers as John Stuart Mill and Jeremy Bentham and the nineteenth-century socialist Nikolay Chernyshevsky. He also mentions François Mignet’s History of the French Revolution as having exerted a profound influence. Writing in 1824, Mignet expressed horror at the violence of the French Revolution but nonetheless maintained that it was a necessary outcome of social and economic conditions.

During his first imprisonment in Kherson and Odessa in 1898, Trotsky read the holdings of the prison libraries, which consisted of conservative historical and religious magazines covering many years. He immersed himself in a study of sects and heresies of ancient and modern times. He developed a special interest in the movement of freemasonry. In the eighteenth century, the freemasons existed as a secret society and enabled the progression of uncensored political and theological discussions that advanced the social agenda of the bourgeoisie in ways the absolutist state would not have allowed had these discussions taken place in a more public manner. Something in the conspiratorial nature of freemasonry appealed to Trotsky.

When his own books arrived at the prison, Trotsky read essays by the Italian Hegelian-Marxist Antonio Labriola, who brilliantly applied the concept of materialist dialectics to the philosophy of history. During his banishment to Ust-Kut, Siberia, in 1900, Trotsky began studying the works of Karl Marx and he also read Lenin’s works, What Is to Be Done? and The Development of Capitalism in Russia. He


Trudeau, Pierre Elliott

also studied such Marxist philosophers as Eduard Bernstein, Karl Kautsky, and Geórgy Plekhanov.


Leon Trotsky Archives, Houghton Library, Harvard University.

Printed Sources

Smith, Irving H. (ed.). Great Lives Observed: Trotsky (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1973).

Trotsky, Leon. My Life: An Attempt at an Autobiography (New York: Scribner, 1931). Wistrich, Robert S. Trotsky: Fate of a Revolutionary (London: Robson, 1979).

Peter R. Erspamer


Pierre Trudeau, Canada’s most erudite prime minister (1968–79, 1980–84), was born in Montreal to a French-Canadian father and a mother, Grace Elliott, whose ancestry was partially Scottish-Canadian. Educated at the Jesuit-run Jean-de- Brébeuf College (B.A., 1940) and at the University of Montreal where he received a law degree in 1943, Trudeau obtained the A.M. in political economy at Harvard University in 1946 before pursuing graduate studies at the École libre des sciences politiques in Paris and the London School of Economics. Deeply Roman Catholic but iconoclastic, Pierre Trudeau experienced a personal epiphany around the age of 30 when he encountered the philosophy of personalism, whose foremost exponent in France was Emmanuel Mounier (Clarkson and McCall 1990/94, 1: 58). This left-wing Catholic approach allowed Trudeau to criticize the traditional outlook of Quebec’s episcopate while still adhering to religious beliefs. He became a fierce critic of Quebec political and intellectual practices, but as prime minister he reformed the country’s criminal code, legislated bilingualism for the federal government, instituted a policy of multiculturalism, and patriated the constitution from Britain in 1982 with a new Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. On the international scene he attempted to promote detente and nuclear arms reduction during the later phases of the cold war.

At Jean-de-Brébeuf, a Montreal classical college combining high school and undergraduate instruction, Pierre Trudeau was introduced to French, Greek, and Latin literature as well as major thinkers such as John Locke, Alexis de Tocqueville, and Thomas Jefferson (Trudeau 1993, 22; Radwanski 1978, 57). He was deeply influenced by lines from Cyrano de Bergerac as presented in the sentimental 1897 drama by Edmond de Rostand: “To sing, to laugh, to dream, to walk in my own way. I’ll climb, not high perhaps, but all alone” (Clarkson and McCall 1990/94, 1:43). Plato’s and Aristotle’s writings on politics and justice retained a lifelong interest, informing his view that a democracy needed to aim at being a “Just Society” (Trudeau 1970, thoughout; Trudeau 1998, 15). He continued to quote Blaise Pascal’s Pensées throughout his life and from Michel Montaigne’s essays he adopted the need for tolerance. Montesquieu’s The Spirit of the Laws (1748) confirmed Trudeau’s belief in the value of parliamentary institutions in guaranteeing liberty and that reason should master emotion. At Harvard he deepened his interest in Western democratic thought, being particularly struck with British Victorian philosopher


Trudeau, Pierre Elliott

Thomas Hill Green’s liberal doctrine that liberty was impossible without an active state to provide security against abuses caused by industrialism. The argument made by his economics professor Joseph A. Schumpeter in Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy (1942) that capitalism was doomed to self-destruct left an impress that was deepened when studying with London’s Harold Laski, who criticized liberalism’s individualist failings.

Pierre Trudeau spent the post–Second World War period publishing essays about law, society, federalism, and Quebec that were later collected in Approaches to Politics

(1970), Federalism and the French Canadians (1968), Against the Current: Selected Writings, 1939–1996 (1996), and The Essential Trudeau (1998). Practicing law and appointed associate professor at the University of Montreal in 1961, he moved from a left-wing perspective to a left-of-center liberalism that extolled progressive ideas about democracy, human freedom, pluralism, and federalism, but he essentialized French-Canadian nationalism as intolerant, discriminatory, and totalitarian. The ideas of McGill University constitutional law professor and poet Frank Reginald Scott influenced his view of the creative possibilities for the law and the manner in which French Canadians had merely adhered to democracy rather than embracing it. He read British liberal historian and Catholic editor Lord John Dalberg Acton to bolster his argument that nationalism was retrograde and self-serving. Trudeau was also attracted to Catholic philosopher Jacques Maritain’s critical realism and emphasis on human freedom, pluralism, and natural rights (Trudeau 1968, 105, 169, 181). Maritain reintroduced him to theologian Thomas Aquinas, but Trudeau also sometimes quoted the Bible (Trudeau 1998, 2; Trudeau 1996, 326).

With enduring literary interests, Pierre Trudeau spent much time discussing nineteenth-century poet Charles Baudelaire when he met French writer and politician André Malraux during the 1970s. In retirement he returned to literature, quoting the poetry of T. S. Eliot and W. B. Yeats extensively in accepting the J. H. Ralston prize from Stanford University in 1990 (Trudeau 1996, 325). Pierre Elliott Trudeau was a remarkable embodiment of Canada’s linguistic and cultural dualism.


National Archives of Canada, Ottawa, Ontario.

Printed Sources

Clarkson, Stephen, and Christina McCall. Trudeau and Our Times, 2 vols. (Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1990, 1994).

Cook, Ramsay. The Maple Leaf Forever: Essays on Nationalism and Politics in Canada (Toronto: Macmillan, 1971).

Couture, Claude. Paddling with the Current: Pierre Elliott Trudeau, Étienne Parent, Liberalism, and Nationalism in Canada (Edmonton: University of Alberta Press, 1998).

Graham, Ron, and Lloyd Axworthy (eds.). Towards the Just Society: The Trudeau Years

(Toronto: Viking, 1990).

Radwanski, George. Trudeau (Toronto: Macmillan, 1978).

Trudeau, Pierre Elliott. Against the Current: Selected Writings, 1939–1996, Gérard Pelletier (ed.), (Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1996)

———.Approaches to Politics (Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1970).

———.The Essential Trudeau, Ron Graham (ed.), (Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1998).

———.Federalism and the French Canadians (Toronto: Macmillan, 1968).

———.Memoirs (Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1993).

Terry Crowley


Truffaut, François


Truffaut was born in Paris in 1932 and had a troubled childhood. The son of factory workers, he failed to complete his studies and was often imprisoned for theft and hooliganism. He also spent some time in a psychiatric hospital. But he was never without books in prison or without his journals and letter-writing. At the age of 13 he began to read the Fayard classics in alphabetical order, from Aristophanes to Voltaire: his favorite authors were Marcel Proust, Honoré de Balzac, Georges Bernanos, Gustave Flaubert, André Gide, Graham Greene, Guy de Maupassant, Georges Simenon, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Oscar Wilde. The turning point was his friendship with André Bazin, the film critic who directed the influential Cahiers du Cinéma. Bazin encouraged young Truffaut’s interest in film, and the result was an article, “Une certaine Tendance du Cinéma Français” (“A Certain Tendency in French Cinema,” 1954), which called for a more personal cinema. It became an informal manifesto for the nouvelle vague (new wave). Truffaut’s first works as a film director were shorts, but already in 1959 he completed his first feature-length film, the semi-autobiographical Les Quatrecents Coups (The Four Hundred Blows), about a troubled adolescent, Antoine Doinel. The same character is the protagonist of an episode, Antoine et Colette, in L’amour à Vingt (Love at Twenty, 1962), of Baisers Volés (Stolen Kisses, 1968), of Domicile Coniugal (Bed and Board, 1970), and of L’amour en fuite (Love on the Run, 1979), all films featuring the actor Jean-Pierre Léaud as Antoine. The principal influence on Truffaut’s cinematography came from the humanistic tradition of Jean Renoir, and through this perspective Truffaut gives expression to a vision of the life always continuing, always flourishing in spite of all difficulties and everyday dramas. The above-mentioned titles belong in this category, together with Jules et Jim (1961), L’Enfant Sauvage (The Wild Child, 1969), La Nuit Americaine (Day for Night, 1973), Une Belle Fille Comme Moi (Such a Gorgeous Kid Like Me, 1973), and L’Homme Qui Aimait Les Femmes (The Man Who Loved Women, 1977). Another somewhat contradictory tendency was deeply influenced by Alfred Hitchcock, representing the darker side of life in fatalistic, even cynical movies: La Mariée Etait En Noir (The Bride Wore Black, 1968), Les Deux Anglaises (Two English Girls, 1972), Adèle H. (The Story of Adèle H., 1975), La Chambre Verte (The Green Room, 1978), Le Dernier Metro (Last Metro, 1980), La Femme D’Acoté (The Woman Next Door, 1981), and Virement Dimanche (1983). Truffaut won an Oscar for La Nuit Américaine (Day for Night, 1973).

The main themes around which the cinema of Truffaut develops are childhood, represented according to the patterns of Jean Vigo and of Charles Dickens, the violation of the cinematographic genre, the quest for absolute values, the quest for absolute and therefore impossible love, and the predominance of an anti-hero, who fights for freedom without weapons and loses, becoming part of a social order that strangles him. Truffaut’s films and acute film criticism exercised a strong influence on many European film directors, especially on Eric Röhmer, Louis Malle, Bertrand Tavernier, Jacques Rivette, Alain Tanner, and Tony Richardson.


No archives available

Printed Sources

Crisp, C.G. François Truffaut (London: November Books, 1972).


Truman, Harry S.

Homes, Diana, and Robert Ingram. François Truffaut (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1998).

Truffaut, François. The Films in My Life (New York: De Capo Press, 1995).

Maria Tabaglio

TRUMAN, HARRY S. (1884–1972)

Harry Truman was born in Lamar, Missouri. Around the age of six, his family moved to Independence, Missouri, where he met his wife, Elizabeth (“Bess”) Wallace. He later attended Noland, Columbian, and Independence grade and high schools, and his favorite subject was history. Although he did not graduate from college, as Truman himself noted, books, especially historical biographies, definitively influenced his entire career. A book that was perhaps the most influential was Edward Creasy’s Fifteen Decisive Battles of the World. In 1905, Truman joined the National Guard. When World War I erupted, he enlisted in the army. Truman was sent to France and was discharged on May 6, 1919. He married Bess on June 28, 1919, and they lived in Independence. Truman opened a store, but the business failed. In 1922, he was elected as a judge of the Missouri county courts. On February 17, 1924, his only child, Mary Margaret, was born. Truman ran for reelection that year, and was defeated. In 1926, he won the seat of presiding judge of Jackson County, Missouri, and was reelected in 1930. In 1934, he ran for the Senate, winning by a large majority. While preparing for his new position as senator, Truman read every book he could find on the Senate. In 1940, Truman ran for reelection and won. In response to manufacturing corruption during World War II, Truman organized the Special Committee Investigating the National Defense Program. In 1944, Franklin D. Roosevelt selected Truman for vice president. Roosevelt was reelected, and Truman became vice-president on January 20, 1945. Roosevelt died on April 12, 1945, and Truman became the thirty-third president of the United States. Truman ordered atomic bombs to be dropped on Japan in August of 1945 after Japan failed to agree to peace terms. Japan surrendered in September 1945. In 1947, Truman established the Truman Doctrine to help other countries fight against Communism, and in 1948, signed the Marshall Plan to assist European economic recovery. Truman ran for president in 1948 and won, but in 1952 refused to run again. Truman returned to Independence where he wrote Memoirs: Years of Decision (1955) and Years of Trial and Hope (1956). In 1956, he received an honorary degree from Oxford. In 1957, the Truman Library opened. In 1960, he published Mr. Citizen, about his post-presidential years. He died on December 26, 1972, and was interred in the courtyard of his library. His wife Bess died in 1982 and was buried alongside him.

Usually because of requests, Truman continually described his literary influences. In 1950, his press secretary listed some of his favorite books, including George Eliot’s Silas Marner. She noted Truman enjoyed Dryden and Shakespeare (Truman Library, information sheet on literary influences, 1950). In a 1958 letter to the governor of Minnesota, Truman listed his greatest literary influences as anything by Mark Twain, Carl Sandburg’s Abraham Lincoln, Marquis James’s books on Andrew Jackson, Claude Bowers’s collection on Thomas Jefferson, and other various American memoirs. He made particular note that by 14, he had read all of the books in the Independence Public Library, including the Bible, which he read four


Truman, Harry S.

times. Plutarch’s Lives, Edward Gibbons’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, and the poetry of Tennyson also influenced him. Thucydides, the state papers of George Washington, and Herbert Hoover’s The Ordeal of Woodrow Wilson were also of particular personal importance. A favorite and influential work was Charles Horne’s Great Men and Famous Women. Truman, when writing legislation or embarking on a new phase of his life, would always read any document he could find relating to his subject. Throughout his life, he always took great pride in his self-taught literary background.


Harry S. Truman Library and Museum. 500 W. U.S. Hwy. 24, Independence, Mo. 64050. Photographs, government documents, personal papers, manuscripts, personal memorabilia, correspondence.

National Archives and Records Service, National Archives Microfilm Publications; Microcopy No. M835, Washington, D.C. Over a thousand photographs of Harry S. Truman.

Printed Sources

Truman, Harry S. Years of Decision: Memoirs by Harry S. Truman, vol. 1 (New York: Doubleday & Co. Inc., 1955).

———. 1946–1952, Years of Trials and Hope: Memoirs by Harry S. Truman, vol. 2 (New York: Doubleday & Co. Inc., 1956).

Truman, Margaret. Harry S. Truman (New York: Morrow, 1973).

———. Letters from Father: The Truman Family’s Personal Correspondence (New York: Arbor House, 1981).

Wendy A. Maier



ULBRICHT, WALTER (1893–1973)

Walter Ulbricht was born in Leipzig to working class parents; his father was a tailor active in the tailors’ union and the Social Democratic party (SPD). His parents were not religious, and Ulbricht was not confirmed; he remained hostile to religion his entire life. Ulbricht attended elementary school until 1907, and then completed a carpenter’s apprenticeship. He worked as a carpenter in Leipzig from 1912, was a member of the carpenters’ union, and also served as a functionary for the local SPD. In 1917 Ulbricht joined the fledgling USPD. During World War One he served in the army; he opposed the war and in 1918 was imprisoned for political agitation. After the war, Ulbricht wrote for several communist papers and in 1920 joined the new Communist Party (KPD). Thereafter he rose steadily in state and national party ranks. A year in Moscow, 1928–29, was especially influential: Ulbricht came into contact with important Soviet leaders and returned determined to work for a Soviet-style state on German soil. In 1933, Ulbricht fled the Nazis, first to Paris, then Prague; from 1933 to 1938 he performed underground work for the KPD and was steadfastly loyal to the Stalinist line. In 1938 he settled in the Soviet Union and remained until 1945. Desirous of power, Ulbricht positioned himself close to Josef Stalin; he also demonstrated a willingness to attack and destroy rivals. In early 1945 Ulbricht was Stalin’s choice to head the KPD delegation established in defeated Germany. Ulbricht labored tirelessly to build KPD influence in the Soviet occupation zone. In 1946, he pushed a KPD–SPD merger, thus creating one working-class party under communist control, the Socialist Unity Party (SED). With the 1949 founding of the German Democratic Republic (GDR), Ulbricht became one of three deputy chairmen of the Council of Ministers. Thereafter he worked opportunistically to add new positions that permitted him to consolidate power and eliminate all rivals. Always keen to act in the interests of Moscow, in 1961 Ulbricht suggested the construction of the Berlin Wall, and in 1968 supported the suppression of the liberal “Prague Spring.” By 1970, though,


Unamuno, Miguel de

differences of opinion were evident between Ulbricht and the new generation of Soviet leaders, specifically in the areas of economic policy and relations with West Germany. In 1971 Ulbricht was removed from all major positions. He essentially disappeared from public life, and he died in 1973. Ulbricht is representative of the postwar generation of Stalinist political figures, individuals who worked to create Soviet-style states. As times changed and new leadership emerged in the Soviet Union, Ulbricht appeared increasingly inflexible and outdated; this ultimately led to his ouster.

As a young man, Ulbricht was politically engaged in different SPD cultural and political organizations; in both he encountered the works of Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, and August Bebel, but also classics by Friedrich Schiller, Johann von Herder, Gotthold Lessing, and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. He attended numerous lectures on different subjects and read widely. His future life was decisively influenced by these early, formative years; Marx and Engels especially provided a view of class conflict and revolution that appealed to him. For much of his life, but especially after the 1930s, Ulbricht lived a private existence and read little outside of party literature and political tracts. He had no close friends and seldom interacted with others outside the workplace; politics consumed his energies. Many publications appeared during the 1950s and 1960s under Ulbricht’s name; these reveal a consistent vision of a planned economy and a centralized state under party control. After 1949, when time allowed, he read novels of Hans Fallada and the East German author Johannes Becher, because they portrayed politically acceptable views of working-class life.


Russian Center for the Storage and Investigation of Documents, Moscow. Records of Comintern; covers period to 1944.

Bundesarchiv Potsdam. Records of GDR Council of State.

Central Archive of the Former GDR Ministry of State Security, Berlin. Records for GDR Council of Ministers, other state bodies, Berlin.

Printed Sources

Frank, M. Walter Ulbricht. Eine deutsche Biografie (Berlin: Siedler, 2001). The new standard biography.

Podewin, Norbert. Walter Ulbricht. Eine neue Biografie (Berlin: Dietz, 1995).

Stern, C. Ulbricht: A Political Biography (New York: Praeger, 1965). Good on early years. Ulbricht, Walter. On questions of socialist construction in the GDR. (Dresden: Zeit im Bild,


———. Whither Germany? (Dresden: Zeit im Bild, 1966). Speeches and essays on the national question.

Thomas Saylor

UNAMUNO, MIGUEL DE (1864–1936)

Miguel de Unamuno cultivated almost every literary genre: the essay, the novel, the short story, poetry, and drama, and hundreds of articles published in Spain and Latin America. His work is engraved with human passion and the accent of his personality as if it were a spiritual and self-critical autobiography.


Unamuno, Miguel de

Unamuno was born to a fervent Catholic family from the Basque city of Bilbao. He studied philosophy at the University of Madrid. An avid reader, Unamuno declared in his posthumous Diario Intimo (published in 1970): “I can tell that French writers introduced me to European thought . . . but I have forgotten them long ago with the exception of the best.” Between 1892 and 1897, Unamuno was influenced by Marxist socialism, which he rejected after his last religious and intellectual crisis. His fictional autobiography Paz en la Guerra (1897) explores a time of civil war in his native city from a metaphysical aspect of life.

After a few years back in Bilbao, Unamuno became professor of Greek at the University of Salamanca. He married his childhood sweetheart, Concepción Lizárraga, and had nine children. From 1901 to 1914, he acted as rector of the University of Salamanca until his strong anti-German sentiments provoked his dismissal.

Unamuno learned German and English so that he could read Immanuel Kant, G.W.F. Hegel, Herbert Spencer, and Thomas Carlyle. He was attracted to Hegelian dialectic and applied the concept of paradox in many of his works. Among his favorite writers were Blaise Pascal, Etienne Sénancour, Lev Tolstoy, and Henrik Ibsen. He also read the works of other controversial authors of the time, such as Ernest Renán and Georg Buchner, who were concerned with the conflict between science and religion. Unamuno also translated Giacomo Leopardi La ginestra, Samuel Taylor Coleridge from English and Joan Maragall from Catalan. His finest translation is considered Seneca’s Medea.

Banished to the Canary Islands for his opposition to the Primo de Rivera dictatorship in 1924, he fled to France. He exultantly returned to Salamanca in 1930 when the dictatorship fell. Being critical of authoritarian Spanish regimes, he maintained an ongoing battle with the Spanish regimes of the early twentieth century: monarchy, dictatorship and republic. As such, he at first supported the uprising of General Francisco Franco in 1936 against the Second Republic, but soon after he recanted and denounced the military leaders of the rebellion and was then put under house arrest. A few months after the Spanish Civil War began, Unamuno died on December 31, 1936. Spain lost a great philosopher and the best in-depth interpreter of the times.

The period of “regenerationism” in the literary essay provided a forum for reformers. From Unamuno’s time as a university professor, Castilian idiosyncrasy and landscape became a social concern as well as for other members of the generation of 1898, which included Angel Ganivet and Antonio Machado, among others. Unamuno’s readings from George Bernard Shaw and Maurice Barrès led him to embark on a new attitude toward Spain as a cultural and spiritual entity and to discover the eternal and universal qualities of “Hispanidad” (Spanishness) after the national consternation over the loss of the last colonies in the Spanish-American war in 1898. In En torno al casticismo (1902), Unamuno perceives that excessive individualism produced decadence and isolation. Spain’s need is to integrate itself in Europe. Two central and converging principles appear in his doctrine: “eternal tradition,” alive and present, and the concept of “intrahistory” that searches for the essential and lasting in human life versus the purely chronological and accidental of history. In La vida de don Quijote y Sancho (1905), Unamuno returns to the idea of individualism, his personal vision, and his faith, due to his disillusion with reason. The “madman” Don Quixote symbolizes the virtues of disinterested heroism, opti-


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