Embalmers by Ilya Zbarsky and Samuel
Hutchinson is one of the oddest mummy books ever
published--and that makes it all the more fascinating.
biography of Boris Zbarsky (one of the embalmers of Lenin's mummy), part
autobiography of his son Ilya Zbarsky, and part political history of 20th
Century Soviet Union, the book is completely
spare prose, it
tells the story of the laboratory created to preserve Vladimir Lenin's
putrefying corpse and the work it has accomplished, often at great odds.
Surprisingly, most of the scientists who worked there survived various
purges over the years, perhaps because authorities were fearful that
Lenin's corpse would rot.
The strength of the book is in the
details--the condition of the corpse, the various methods (some
unsuccessful) and chemicals used for preservation, the personal and
political intrigue behind the scenes, and
the facts about other communist mummies...including Stalin, Georgi
Dimitrov (head of the Bulgarian Communist Party), Klement Gottwald (head
of the Czech Communist Party), and Ho Chi Minh. Because the laboratory has
fallen out of favor since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, it must
seek other bodies to mummify, and the book fills in some details of
recent efforts to embalm the nouveau riche of Russia.
The book is illustrated
with photos, many of the mummies themselves. The photos are relatively
small and not always the best
quality; however, if you want to see what Stalin or Lenin's mummy looks
like, the book does provide close-up views.