A New York Review Books Original
Victor Serge is one of the great men of the 20th century —and one of its great writers too. He was an anarchist, an agitator, a revolutionary, an exile, a historian of his times, as well as a brilliant novelist, and in Memoirs of a Revolutionary he devotes all his passion and genius to describing this extraordinary—and exemplary—career. Serge tells of his upbringing among exiles and conspirators, of his involvement with the notorious Bonnot Gang and his years in prison, of his role in the Russian Revolution, and of the Revolution’s collapse into despotism and terror. Expelled from the Soviet Union, Serge went to Paris, where he evaded the KGB and the Nazis before fleeing to Mexico. Memoirs of a Revolutionary recounts a thrilling life on the front lines of history and includes vivid portraits not only of Trotsky, Lenin, and Stalin but of countless other figures who struggled to remake the world.
Peter Sedgwick’s fine translation of Memoirs of a Revolutionary was abridged when first published in 1963. This is the first edition in English to present the entirety of Serge’s book.
About the Author
Victor Serge was born to Russian A(c)migrA(c) parents in Belgium in 1890. After five years imprisoned, he returned to revolutionary Russia but was later exiled for protesting against the purges. Writing numerous novels, poems, memoirs and political essays he prefigured Solzhenitzyn by decades, believing: "He who writes is above all one who speaks on behalf of all those who have no voice."
Peter Sedgwick is Lecturer in Philosophy at Cardiff University. He is editor of "Nietzsche: A Critical Reader" (Blackwell, 1995) and co-editor, with Andrew Edgar, of "Key Concepts in Cultural Theory" (1999).
Paizis is Lecturer in French at University College in London.
“The Memoirs tells a harrowing story — Serge spent most of his adult life in prison and/or exile and saw the Russian Revolution, which for him was the pinnacle of his life in radical activism, lead to one of the most brutal dictatorships in human memory. But it also is a forward-looking book, committed to recording the history of an era in the obvious hope that others will learn from it. It is both realist and idealist, an attitude that is essential to any functional left-wing, or even liberal, movement.” —Los Angeles Review of Books
"Memoirs is a document that is essential, above all, as a denouncement of oppression, an eye-witness account, written in heat and at speed, but with the talent of the true writer, of what it was like to be at the heart of the machine – and to stand up to it. This is the most complete edition yet published in English (Sedgwick's first, abridged translation appeared nearly 50 years ago). How it has taken so long to appear is one of those unfathomable mysteries…. Anyway, here it is at last, and anyone who cares about justice and freedom of speech should have a copy."— Nicholas Lezard, The Guardian
“This book is a fiery testament to political conscience and revolutionary hope.” —Mike Davis, author of City of Quartz
“I can’t think of anyone who has written about the revolutionary movement in [the 20th century] with Serge’s combination of moral insight and intellectual richness.” — Dwight Macdonald
“Serge is one of the most compelling of twentieth- century ethical and literary heroes.” — Susan Sontag
"The tight links among Serge's traits—his intellectual seriousness, the drive to literary expression, an intransigent radicalism not quite separable from restiveness in the face of routine corruption and dishonesty—are especially evident in Memoirs of a Revolutionary, now available for the first time in a complete English translation...Serge can recognize the range of experience and responses that make up the texture of life in even the most nightmarishly repressive system." --Scott McLemee, Bookforum