by Victor Serge, Translated by James Brook
Victor Serge (1890-1947) played many parts, as he recounted in his indelible Memoirs of a Revolutionary. The son of anti-czarist exiles in Brussels, Serge was a young anarchist in Paris; a syndicalist rebel in Barcelona; a Bolshevik in Petrograd; a Comintern agent in Central Europe; a comrade of Trotsky's; a friend of writers like Andrei Bely, Boris Pilnyak, and André Breton; a prisoner of Stalin; a dissident Marxist in exile in Mexico . . . A novelist, a literary critic, a political journalist, and a historian of the Russian Revolution, Serge was also a formidable poet. In A Blaze in a Desert: Selected Poems, Victor Serge bears witness to decades of revolutionary upheavals in Europe and the advent of totalitarian rule; many of the poems were written during the "immense shipwreck" of Stalin's ascendancy. In poems datelined Petrograd, Orenburg, Paris, Marseille, the Caribbean, and Mexico, Serge composed elegies for the fallen who, like him, endured prison, exile, and bitter disappointment in the revolutions of the first half of the twentieth century: Night falls, the boat pulls in, stop singing. Exile relights its captive lampson the shore of time. A Blaze in a Desert comprises Victor Serge's sole published book of poetry, Resistance (1938), his unpublished manuscript Messages (1946), and his last poem, "Hands" (1947).
"The voice of Victor Serge is needed now more than ever, and James Brook provides a fine edition and translation of his poems, bringing out the close relation between poetic expression and sensibility, and humane, revolutionary political engagement. History and the cosmos, individual and collective hopes, dreams and loss trace a subtle dance in this moving collection." --Bill Marshall, author, Victor Serge: The Uses of Dissent and Guy Hocquenghem: Beyond Gay Identity
"The poems reflect a life filled with challenging political and personal circumstances. They are beautiful and often suffused with strong feelings of great sadness, aching, and longing and he moves from anger, sorrow, and grief to love, occasionally displaying flashes of wry humour." --Rebecca Townsend, Socialist Review
About the Contributors:
Victor Serge (1890-1947) was an anarchist firebrand, who wrote three novels, was arrested, and lived in precarious exile throughout his life.
James Brook (translator and editor) is a poet whose translations include works by Guy Debord, Henri Michaux, Gellu Naum, and Benjamin Péret. He is the principal editor of Resisting the Virtual Life (with Iain Boal) and Reclaiming San Francisco (with Chris Carlsson and Nancy J. Peters). The New York Times named his translation of Jean-Patrick Manchette's The Prone Gunman a Notable Book.