'Their job is to suppress us noiselessly; ours is to survive.'
November 18, 2003 6:35 PM   Subscribe

Victor Serge is one of the missing links in 20th-century history; in at the beginning of the Soviet Union, he saw before almost anyone what a nightmare it was going to be, wrote some prescient books, may have invented the word "totalitarian," knew everybody who was anybody, and was forgotten. Christopher Hitchens tries to remind us (quote and acknowledgment inside).
posted by languagehat (6 comments total)
He met Antonio Gramsci and Georg Lukacs during his years outside Russia, and received a warning from Lukacs not to go back. He later not only escorted Nikos Kazantzakis and Panaït Istrati around the USSR but also was present when Istrati let fall the remark that made him famous: to the old saw "One can't make an omelet without breaking eggs," Istrati mordantly retorted, "All right, I can see the broken eggs. Where's this omelet of yours?" When the honest old Bolshevik diplomat Adolf Joffe committed suicide in 1927, to call attention to the "Thermidor" that was engulfing the revolution, Serge assisted in organizing a mass turnout for Joffe's funeral; he later realized that he had helped to lead the last legal anti-government protest to be held in Moscow. Within a short time he himself was in one of Stalin's prisons.
(Via Mildly Malevolent.)
posted by languagehat at 6:36 PM on November 18, 2003

Damnit, couldn't you have waited until I'd finished work?

Nice find, LH.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 7:06 PM on November 18, 2003

"Welcome to Adobe GoLive 6"
Funny name for a Russian Gulag...

(otherwise good site; eagerly awaiting the content not-yet-linked in the contents page)
posted by wendell at 7:22 PM on November 18, 2003

Hey! How do I file this post - in my "ideology" files section - Left? Right? Totalitarian? Anarchist?

Meanwhile - "He was one of those intellectual misfits (I intend no disrespect by the term) who were ground to powder between the upper and nether millstones of Stalin and Hitler.....So hunted and so cosmopolitan and so factional was Serge's life that it comes almost as a surprise that he was not Jewish. (When asked if he was—and he was asked fairly frequently—he would respond politely, "It happens that I am not."

Hitchens may have his flaws, but you won't find them here in this piece......unless, by some grim chance, you might happen to be an historian specializing in the period in question. Even then I'd bet you won't be too irritated.

Coming soon to Metafilter - Isaac Babel!.........
posted by troutfishing at 8:17 PM on November 18, 2003

I would echo troutfishing's sentiments. The ONLY reason I do not suscribe to Atlantic Monthly or The Nation is Hitchens.

Great link on Victor Serge. Thanks.
posted by nofundy at 4:50 AM on November 19, 2003

Especially great to see info about all his novels and poetry. Thanks!
posted by scody at 3:10 PM on November 19, 2003

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