Alexei Sayle on Stalin Ate My Homework

Posted on 7 September 2010
By Martin Higgins
  • Share:

Alexei Sayle did not have your bog standard upbringing, growing up in Liverpool with parents who were both staunch Communists. Sayle realised early on in his development that all of his “efforts to be just like the other kids were doomed.”

The scouse comic has published his new memoir Stalin Ate My Homework this week documenting these early years and his politicised beginnings.

His mother, Molly dominates the narrative as a fiery, vivacious redhead of Latvian Jewish descent. Sayle portrays his mother as a woman prone to sudden rages, who swears like a trooper and is extremely headstrong.

Molly Sayle now well into her 90’s did not approve of her son’s depiction of her and called the book ‘a pack of lies’. Alexei contests this saying: “Well, it’s an affectionate picture I think, but it is also an aggressive act to make a real person the comic character at the centre of a book.”

“We had a party for Molly’s 95th birthday last week and she kept telling everyone that the book’s ‘a pack of lies’. It is a memoir not an autobiography, so I did rely on how I remember things.”

“Still, I do stand by my portrait of her, and I think any reasonable clinical psychologist would agree. She’s extraordinary, but she is an archetypal Stalinist in that she has airbrushed out inconvenient truths.”

The book comes across as quite light hearted while the darker, subversive aspects of a household full of extremeists remain deliberately vague. “I didn’t want it to be a misery memoir. It’s essentially a comic book and if you start going too much into your own suffering, it’s something else.”

As a teenager it looked like he would follow in his parents footsteps as he joined the Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist), a Maoist group who felt the Soviet Union was for softies.

Not until he moved to London in 1974 did he finally leave the movement saying: “I always thought communism was crap, really”.