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Inquisition Mode

Tariq Ali: Victor Serge’s Defective Bolshevism, 16 July 2020

Notebooks: 1936-47 
by Victor Serge, translated by Mitchell Abidor and Richard Greeman.
NYRB, 651 pp., £17.99, April 2019, 978 1 68137 270 9
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... Mexico​ City, 6 July 1946. Victor Serge had a year to live. He had spent the morning, as he sometimes did, with Trotsky’s widow, Natalia Sedova. They had been writing a joint memoir of Trotsky; in it Natalia recalls her husband pacing up and down in his study at Coyoacán, engaged in heated imaginary conversation with old dead Bolsheviks, arguing about Stalin, and how and why they had been defeated by him ...

Double Duty

Lorna Scott Fox: Victor Serge, 22 May 2003

Victor SergeThe Course Is Set on Hope 
by Susan Weissman.
Verso, 364 pp., £22, September 2001, 1 85984 987 3
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... In The Long Dusk, Victor Serge’s novel about the fall of France, his alter ego Dr Ardatov escapes death just as the author did, on a boat out of Marseille in 1941. One of Ardatov’s companions, a much younger woman, Hilda, joins him on deck. She says something intense, he counters with something pompous. With a familiar irritation, she thinks: ‘I wish you were thirty years younger ...

Stalin at the Movies

Peter Wollen: The Red Atlantis: Communist Culture in the Absence of Communism by J. Hoberman, 25 November 1999

The Red Atlantis: Communist Culture in the Absence of Communism 
by J. Hoberman.
Temple, 315 pp., £27.95, November 1998, 1 56639 643 3
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... point of view of three related personae: the thoughtful Jewish New Yorker, reading the novels of Victor Serge or reconsidering the Rosenberg case; the compulsive film aficionado, intrigued by the representation of the Communist world in Soviet films, Hollywood movies and the work of the East European New Wave directors, such as Gyula Gazdag or Dusan ...

Short Cuts

Jeremy Harding: Depardieu in Belgium, 24 January 2013

... you have the money, you can even acquire Belgian nationality. But who wants to be a Belgian? Only Victor Serge, perhaps, born in Brussels to anti-tsarist exiles and deported in 1909, a teenage anarchist firebrand with no money to shovel to the right people. When he made it to the Soviet Union, Stalin stuck him in jail, twice. Depardieu is presentably pre ...

Into the Net

Neal Ascherson: Records of the Spanish Civil War, 15 December 2016

Spain in Our Hearts: Americans in the Spanish Civil War, 1936-39 
by Adam Hochschild.
Macmillan, 438 pp., £25, April 2016, 978 1 5098 1054 3
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¡No Pasarán! Writings from the Spanish Civil War 
edited by Pete Ayrton.
Serpent’s Tail, 393 pp., £20, April 2016, 978 1 84668 997 0
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The Last Days of the Spanish Republic 
by Paul Preston.
William Collins, 390 pp., £25, February 2016, 978 0 00 816340 2
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A Distant Heartbeat: A War, a Disappearance and a Family’s Secrets 
by Eunice Lipton.
New Mexico, 165 pp., £18.50, April 2016, 978 0 8263 5658 1
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... of Franco’s much deeper and broader bloodbath. Malraux, Sartre, Jorge Semprun, Laurie Lee, Victor Serge, Luis Buñuel and of course Orwell have their pages, but for a change – almost welcome – Hemingway and Gellhorn are absent. Instead, the American witnesses chosen by Ayrton are John Dos Passos and Muriel Rukeyser. Ayrton’s selections ...

Reinstall the Footlights

T.J. Clark: The Art of the Russian Revolution, 16 November 2017

... that someone like me – a scot-free Western Marxist, faithful reader of Boris Souvarine and Victor Serge and E.H. Carr – should find himself waiting in the Memorial room for the ‘great’ victims, the Mandelstams, the Florenskys, the Kamenevs, the Bukharins, to appear alongside the entirely, uniquely ordinary ones. It was the ordinariness and ...

Marseille, 1940-43

Neal Ascherson, 18 July 2013

... celebrities: Heinrich and Golo Mann, Hannah Arendt, Anna Seghers, Simone Weil, Arthur Koestler, Victor Serge, Walter Benjamin, Franz Werfel and his wife Alma Mahler, Lion Feuchtwanger, Konrad Heiden (Hitler’s first truthful biographer), Marc Chagall, Jacques Lipchitz, Moïse Kisling, the young Claude Lévi-Strauss … A band of surrealists led by Max ...


Jeremy Harding: Hitchens, 31 March 2011

... Martin Amis in the cab beside him, with a frozen alcopop in one hand and an unread novel by Victor Serge in the other. Which is another problem: few of Hitchens’s friends are as clever, or fastidious, or well read, or hungry for the telling detail, as he is. Few have the same root and branch obsession with the recent past or the avenger’s ...

Bring on the hypnotist

Neal Ascherson, 12 March 1992

After the Fall: The Failure of Communism and the Future of Socialism 
edited by Robin Blackburn.
Verso, 327 pp., £32.95, November 1991, 0 86091 540 9
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... calculation’ with von Mises, Hayek, Lange and others, or some sparkling quotations from Victor Serge, or a precarious attempt to deny that Leninism was ‘inherently totalitarian’ (Lenin was not, but surely his -ism was). But I found myself soon gripped by terrible impatience. Enough of the past: how will we ever get to the future? Alexander ...

Bring me another Einstein

Matthew Reisz, 22 June 2000

American Pimpernel: The Man who Saved the Artists on Hitler’s Death List 
by Andy Marino.
Hutchinson, 416 pp., £16.99, November 1999, 0 09 180053 6
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... Air-Bel (sometimes known as the Château Espère-Visa) where he spent a good deal of time with Victor Serge, Breton, Ernst and Masson. He learned to play ‘Exquisite Corpses’ and enjoyed the political arguments. ‘Killer’ created something of a stir when he claimed to have buried a body in the gardens. It was all very well deciding to save the ...

I am only interested in women who struggle

Jeremy Harding: On Sarah Maldoror, 23 May 2024

... the French photographer Robert Doisneau; the Russian-Mexican painter Vlady Rusakov and his father, Victor Serge, hero of the anti-Stalinist left. Several of her works are lost, including The Commune, Louise Michel and Us, a film she worked on in the early 1970s and ‘Guns for Banta’, a feature she shot in 1970 in Guinea-Bissau during the liberation war ...

Where’s the omelette?

Tom Nairn: Patrick Wright, 23 October 2008

Iron Curtain: From Stage to Cold War 
by Patrick Wright.
Oxford, 488 pp., £18.99, October 2007, 978 0 19 923150 8
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... Istrati was a critic of Soviet society who was denounced by the Comintern denigration and, like Victor Serge, abused as an ‘anti-Moscow anarchist’. Visitors to the Soviet Union touring ‘their own ardent preconceptions’ were often reminded that eggs have to be broken to make an omelette. It was Istrati who came up with the best riposte: ‘All ...

In the bright autumn of my senescence

Christopher Hitchens, 6 January 1994

In the Heat of the Struggle: Twenty-Five Years of ‘Socialist Worker’ 
by Paul Foot.
Bookmarks, 288 pp., £12.50, November 1993, 0 906224 94 2
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Why You Should Join the Socialists 
by Paul Foot.
Bookmarks, 70 pp., £1.90, November 1993, 0 906224 80 2
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... Sedgwick, and he didn’t really wear the aspect of the recruiter. Well-known for his edition of Victor Serge, he was soon to become better known for his clinical evisceration of the work of R.D. Laing, and for his hilariously mordant critique of Herbert Marcuse. (This is important, because a feature of the IS, as it called itself, was that it was ...

Barbarism with a Human Face

Slavoj Žižek: Lenin v. Stalin in Kiev, 8 May 2014

... crucial questions about the Gulag were being asked by left oppositionists, from Boris Souvarine to Victor Serge to C.L.R. James, in real time and at great peril. Those courageous and prescient heretics have been somewhat written out of history (they expected far worse than that, and often received it).’ This internal dissent was a natural part of the ...

Haddock blows his top

Christopher Tayler: Hergé’s Redemption, 7 June 2012

Hergé: The Man who Created Tintin 
by Pierre Assouline, translated by Charles Ruas.
Oxford, 276 pp., £9.99, October 2011, 978 0 19 983727 4
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Hergé, Son of Tintin 
by Benoît Peeters, translated by Tina Kover.
Johns Hopkins, 394 pp., £15.50, November 2011, 978 1 4214 0454 7
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... estate which Captain Haddock comes into by penetrating the secrets of an aristocratic ancestor. Serge Tisseron, a French psychoanalyst, puts the story at the centre of his theory of Tintin, and McCarthy has fun with it in his study. The Remis weren’t very close or communicative, and there weren’t many books in the house, though the young Hergé wasn’t ...

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