I’ve long since abandoned the notion that Leon Trotsky was anything other than a nasty piece of business. But—and this is almost certainly part of the problem—he sure could write. As a master of nasty, unfair, hilarious political invective, he has almost no equal. But not all invective: nearly 50 years now and I still remember his nostalgic recollections of his youth on a farm outside Odessa, and in particular, I remember Falz-Fein the sheep king:
The German settlers constituted a group apart. There were some really rich men among them. They stood more firmly on their feet than the others. Their domestic relations were stricter, their sons were seldom sent to be educated in town, their daughters habitually worked in the fields. Their houses were built of brick with iron roofs painted green or red, their horses were well bred, their harness was strong, their spring carts were called “German wagons.” Our nearest neighbor among the Germans was Ivan Ivanovich Dorn, a fat, active man with low shoes on his bare feet, with a tanned and bristling face, and gray hair. He always drove about in a fine, bright-painted wagon drawn by black stallions whose hoofs thundered over the ground. And there were many of these Dorns.
Above them all towered the figure of Falz-Fein the Sheep King, a “Kannitverstan” of the steppes.
In driving through the country, one would pass a huge flock of sheep. “Whom do these belong to?” one would ask. “To Falz-Fein.” You met a hay-wagon on the road. Whom was that hay for? “For Falz-Fein.” A pyramid of fur dashes by in a sleigh. It is Falz-Fein’s manager. A string of camels suddenly startles you with its bellowing. Only Falz-Fein owns camels. Falz-Fein had imported stallions from
The founder of this family, who was called only Falz in those days, without the Fein, had been a shepherd on the estate of the Duke of Oldenburg.
--Leon Trotsky, My Life, Chapter 2, retrieved here (link).Call it socialist realism avant la lettre.