by Victor Serge, translated by Richard Greeman
Birth of Our Power, first published as Naissance de notre force in 1931, is an epic novel set in Spain, France, and Russia during the heady revolutionary years 1917-1919. Serge's tale begins in the spring of 1917, the third year of mass slaughter in the blood-and-rain-soaked trenches of World War I. When the flames of revolution suddenly erupt in Russia and Spain, Europe is "burning at both ends." Although the Spanish uprising eventually fizzles, in Russia the workers, peasants, and common soldiers are able to take power and hold it.
Serge's "tale of two cities" is constructed from the opposition between Barcelona, the city "we" could not take, and Petrograd, the starving, beleaguered capital of the Russian Revolution besieged by counter-revolutionary Whites. Between the romanticism of radicalized workers awakening to their own power in a sun-drenched Spanish metropolis to the grim reality of workers clinging to power in Russia's dark, frozen revolutionary outpost. From "victory in defeat" to "defeat in victory."
The novel was composed a decade after the revolution in Leningrad, where Serge was living in semicaptivity because of his declared opposition to Stalin's dictatorship over the revolution.
"Birth of Our Power is one of the finest romances of revolution ever written, and confirms Serge as an outstanding chronicler of his turbulent era... As an epic, Birth of Our Power has lost none of its strength." -- Lawrence M. Bensky, New York Times
"Probably the most remarkable of his novels... Of all the European writers who have taken revolution as their theme, Serge is second only to Conrad... Here is a writer with a magnificent eye for the panoramic sweep of historical events and an unsparingly precise moral insight." -- Francis King, Sunday Telegraph
About the Contributors:
Victor Serge (1890-1947) was born to Russian anti-Tsarist exiles living in Brussels. As a young anarchist firebrand, he was sentenced to five years in a French penitentiary in 1912. In 1919, Serge joined the Bolsheviks. An outspoken critic of Stalin, he was expelled from the Party and arrested in 1929. Nonetheless, he managed to complete three novels (Men in Prison, Birth of Our Power, and Conquered City) and a history (Year One of the Russian Revolution), published in Paris. Arrested again in Russia and deported to Central Asia in 1933, he was allowed to leave the USSR in 1936 after international protests by militants and prominent writers such as André Gide and Romain Rolland. Hounded by Stalinist agents, Serge lived in precarious exile in Brussels, Paris, Vichy France, and Mexico City, where he died in 1947.
Richard Greeman has translated and written the introductions for five of Victor Serge's novels. Cofounder of the Praxis Center and Victor Serge Library in Moscow, Greeman is the author of Beware of Vegetarian Sharks: Radical Rants and Internationalist Essays.