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Memoirs of a Revolutionary (The Iowa Series in Literary Nonfiction) Paperback – 1 Dec 2002
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"An extraordinary time capsule from the darkest hours of the twentieth century. Although often compared to Orwell, Serge is a more noble and irreconcilable figure. This book--written as the GPU was exterminating the last of the Bolshevik old guard--is a fiery testament to political conscience and revolutionary hope. Through Serge, we know something of those gigantic but largely forgotten figures: the anarchist and communist opponents of Stalin."
About the Author
VICTOR SERGE (1890–1947) was born Victor Lvovich Kibalchich to Russian anti-tsarist exiles, impoverished intellectuals living “by chance” in Brussels. A precocious anarchist firebrand, young Victor was sentenced to five years in a French penitentiary in 1912. Expelled to Spain in 1917, he participated in an anarcho-syndicalist uprising before leaving to join the Revolution in Russia. Detained for more than a year in a French concentration camp, Serge arrived in St. Petersburg early in 1919 and joined the Bolsheviks, serving in the press services of the Communist International. An outspoken critic of Stalin, Serge was expelled from the Party and briefly arrested in 1928. Henceforth an “unperson,” he completed three novels (Men in Prison, Birth of Our Power, and Conquered City) and a history (Year One of the Russian Revolution), all published in Paris. Arrested again in Russia and deported to Central Asia in 1933, he was allowed to leave the USSR in 1936 after international protests by militants and prominent writers like André Gide and Romain Rolland. Using his insider’s knowledge, Serge published a stream of impassioned, documented exposés of Stalin’s Moscow show trials and machinations in Spain, which went largely unheeded. Stateless, penniless, hounded by Stalinist agents, Serge lived in precarious exile in Brussels, Paris, Vichy France, and Mexico City, where he died in 1947. His classic Memoirs of a Revolutionary and his great last novels, Unforgiving Years and The Case of Comrade Tulayev (both available as NYRB Classics), were written “for the desk drawer” and published posthumously.
Adam Hochschild has written for The New Yorker, Harper's Magazine, The New York Review of Books, The New York Times Magazine and The Nation. His books include King Leopold's Ghost, a National Books Critics Circle Award finalist and and winner of Mark Lynton History Prize, and Bury the Chains, winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for history and the PEN USA Literary Award for Research Nonfiction. His most recent book is To End All Wars. He teaches at the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California Berkeley.
Peter Sedgwick (1934-1983) was a translator of Victor Serge, and author of a number of books including PsychoPolitics. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
Top customer reviews
of Trotsky; and it did this with a determined and delightful commitment to the cause of communist revolution, in spite of every betrayal, every atrocity, every degeneration of the workers' dream. And Serge was there in the thick of it, registering the poverty, crime and alcoholism within the would-be utopian Soviet Union, noticing that the Belgians were too fat and prosperous to make a revolution, and dying stateless, the ultimate outsider and internationalist, in a Mexican taxi.
This book has been out of print for ages. Now it has been reissued with some previously deleted passages, and some introductory material which for the first time benefits from the collapse of the Soviet Union and thereby signals the even greater relevance of Serge's work to a post-communist Russia and a globalised capitalism in crisis. Read this passionate memoir alongside Eric Hobsbawm's Age of Extremes, and you will get a real grip of that most bloody and radical era, the terrible 20th century with its dreams, nightmares, utopias, and its unfinished efforts to create liberty, equality and fraternity.
Amongst the heaps of garbage that are written about the Russian Revolution, the gems shine through and among the crown jewels stands Serge's 'Memoirs'.
Gone is the hackneyed lying about totalitarian conspiracies at the heart of Bolshevism, gone is the lie that the revolution wasn't a popular event, to be replaced by the memoirs of someone who was there and knew the truth: that the revolution was popular, that Bolshevism was not authoritarian and that the growth of authoritarianism was a consequence of events.
And superbly written.
In the end what is there to say? Serge has to maintain a hope in humanity or else what was his life's work for? If this is what the very best minds of their generation could achieve it is hard to maintain that hope.
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