This book aims to contribute to wider dissemination and discussion of Victor Serge's ideas and art. Following a roughly chronological order through Serge's life, it weaves in and out of the literary texts, discussing their fictional qualities but also their importance for an understanding of Serge's thought and political practice. Chapter One provides a biographical summary; Chapter Two is an account of Serge's intellectual trajectory, using his first two novels as illustrations; Chapter Three discusses the interplay of literature and politics in his life and thought; Chapter Four delves deeper into the way dissent and political commitment interact in Serge's texts, mostly through a discussion of his third novel, "Ville Conquise"; Chapter Five examines the specificities of the anti-Stalinist novels, notably through a comparison of "L'Affaire Toulaev" and "Darkness at Noon"; Chapter Six concludes with an assessment of Serge's final intellectual and political priorities before his premature death.
Throughout, the thread is that of dissent, traditionally seen as a disembodied repository of universal and eternal values, and its concrete manifestations in Serge's practice, the uses to which it is put, whether on the crest of the historical wave that was the heroic period of the Russian Revolution in 1919-21, or the exiled and dispersed diaspora of the holocausts of the 1940s. Throughout Serge's life, the demands of consciousness and political praxis acted simultaneously to produce texts and thought which are inherently dynamic, both committed and self-questioning. His intellectual biography is the adventure of the subversion of those binaries.
"That the first book-length study of Victor Serge should not be published until 101 years after his birth is a scandal. Fortunately Bill Marshall's excellent book was worth waiting for ... After Marshall's book, there can be no excuse for not seeing Serge as one of the major French-language writers of our century. Marshall deserves a wide readership; if he succeeds in persuading more people to read, study and teach Serge, he will have achieved his purpose." --French Studies