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One of Victor Serge's most brutally stunning works, Midnight in the Century transforms into fiction Serge's real-life imprisonment in the Gulag in 1934 and later exile, as first depicted in his nonfiction masterpiece, Memoirs of a Revolutionary.
Victor Serge (1890-1947), born Victor Lvovich Kibalchich, was a Russian writer, anarchist, and revolutionary. An outspoken critic of Stalin, Serge published a stream of impassioned, documented exposes of Stalin's Moscow show trials and machinations in Spain. He wrote three novels, Men in Prison, Birth of Our Power, and Conquered City (available from NYRB Classics), and a history, Year One of the Russian Revolution. Stateless, penniless, hounded by Stalinist agents, Serge lived in precarious exile in Brussels, Paris, Vichy France, and Mexico City, where he died. His classic Memoirs of a Revolutionary and his great last novels, Unforgiving Years and The Case of Comrade Tulayev, written "for the desk drawer" and published posthumously, are all available from NYRB Classics. Richard Greeman has translated and written the introductions for five of Serge's novels, including Unforgiving Years and Conquered City. A veteran Socialist and co-founder of the Praxis Center and Victor Serge Library in Moscow, Greeman is the author of Beware Of "Vegetarian" Sharks: Radical Rants and Internationalist Essays. He divides his time between France and New York.
Fiction, for Serge, is truth-the truth of self-transcendence, the obligation to give voice to those who are mute or who have been silenced... . The presumptive case for exempting Serge from the oblivion that awaits most heroes of truth lies, finally, in the excellence of his fiction. -- Susan Sontag A special class of literature that has arisen out of the European political struggle. George Orwell The work of the writer Victor Serge faultlessly captures the labyrinth of bureaucratic incrimination into which the Soviet Union descended. The Atlantic 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 I know of no other writer with whom Serge can be very usefully compared. The essence of the man and his books is to be found in his attitude to the truth. There have of course been many scrupulously honest writers. But for Serge the value of the truth extended far beyond the simple (or complex) telling of it. John Berger He was an eyewitness of events of world historical importance, of great hope and even greater tragedy. His political recollections are very important, because they reflect so well the mood of this lost generation. His novels will find readers now because they help grant an understanding of the aftermath of the Russian revolution and its impact on militants and intellectuals, a world of yesterday almost as distant from subsequent generations as the Napoleonic wars...His articles and books speak for themselves, and we would be poorer without them. Partisan Review Whatever he wrote, including his fiction, was a kind of personal history of the Left, in haste, in bloody ink, on bandages. Like Koestler in Darkness at Noon, Serge seems to be saying that man, the particular, is more important than mankind, the abstraction. The New York Times Victor Serge was, and remains, unique: the only novelist to describe successfully, from the inside, the now long-lost milieu of the socialist movement in Europe, its Soviet product, and its destruction by Stalinism. He has been described as a political Ishmael, comparable to the lone survivor of the wrecked Pequod. Stephen Schwartz, The New Criterion A witness to revolution and reaction in Europe between the wars, Serge searingly evoked the epochal hopes and shattering setbacks of a generation of leftists. Yet under the bleakest of conditions, Serge's optimism, his humane sympathies and generous spirit, never waned. A radical misfit, no faction, no sect could contain him; he inhabited a no-man's-land all his own. These qualities are precisely what make him such an inspiring, even moving figure. Matthew Price, Bookforum