Commentary Magazine

Article Preview

Red Love, by David Evanier

- Abstract

The case of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg has been the subject of novels, plays, movies, and docudramas, not to mention numerous scholarly studies and an even greater body of polemical works. While the most serious investigations have made an overwhelming case for Julius Rosenberg’s guilt as a Soviet spy, fictional appraisals have almost always assumed the couple’s innocence, or at the very least portrayed the Rosenbergs as idealists victimized by McCarthyism. Such artistic depictions have been suffused with moral outrage and a damp and thoroughly bogus sentimentalism: Julius and Ethel are regularly seen as loving parents, champions of peace, advocates of racial equality; their persecutors as unprincipled, pitiless men whose hounding of the couple was orchestrated by unseen, sinister forces.

What concerns the novelist David Evanier is less the Rosenbergs’ guilt or innocence—he assumes they were traitors—than their image as martyrs. His goal in this wild, irreverent book is to demolish the essential myth of the Rosenbergs as a couple who died upholding the highest principles of patriotic American dissent. Where their apologists have beatified them (and their critics often demonized them), Evanier treats the Rosenbergs as pathetic and self-deluded people who in the end sacrificed themselves for an absurd cause and for one of history’s greatest criminals.

About the Author

Arch Puddington is director of research at Freedom House and the author, most recently, of Lane Kirkland: Champion of American Labor.