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Victor Serge: The Course is Set on Hope Hardcover – September 17, 2001

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“Victor Serge was probably the greatest working-class writer of the twentieth century. As this superb study makes clear, he was also the Revolution’s most ardent lover and indestructible conscience.”—Mike Davis

“Have you ever come across one of those madmen who joyfully, ironically and lightheartedly strove to build the world soviet republic? Or one of those revolutionaries who never gave up hope, despite betrayal and defeat, prison and exile? Susan Weissman presents Victor Serge, a member of that race of giants, a gargantuan in the fight for freedom and collective happiness.”—Antonio Negri

“Victor Serge is one of the unsung heroes of a corrupt century: a figure of great political courage and humanity. It is a pleasure to see this major witness to our time at last get the careful, sympathetic and informed biography he has so long deserved.”—Adam Hochschild

“In 1968, when I was preparing for a poetry reading in Mexico, my Mexican friends loaned me Victor Serge’s typewriter. My fingers almost froze as each touch of the keyboard brought to life the ghosts of the past...This is a unique book about a unique man, Victor Serge, who, in being one of the first to fight for a truly humanitarian socialism, was punished for his shame at the betrayal of the revolution he so longed for.”—Yevgeny Yevtushenko

About the Author

Susan Weissman is Professor of Politics at Saint Mary’s College of California. She is an award-winning broadcast journalist, sits on the editorial boards of Critique and Against the Current, and is the editor of Victor Serge: Russia Twenty Year After and The Ideas of Victor Serge.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Verso (October 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1859849873
  • ISBN-13: 978-1859849873
  • Product Dimensions: 0.6 x 0.1 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,027,857 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By michael davis on June 12, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Long neglected by critics and historians, Victor Serge was one of the last century's greatest political novelists and a participant in some of its most epochal events. This is the first full-length biography and Weissman brilliantly mines the newly-opened Comintern archives to recount Serge's heroic battle against Stalinist lies and deceptions.
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14 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Frederick D. Friedman on February 20, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Victor Serge was one of the few early Bolsheviks who had the honesty to speak out when he saw the revolution degenerate into totalitarian oppression accompanied by hysterical witch hunts, brutal repression of dissent, forced transfer of entire populatons, massive economic failure and the murder of millions.He was lucky to escape with his life after an internal exile. He was a prolific writer of both political essays and fiction. He had complete integrity and, it appears, utter fearlessness.
The author is devoted to her subject and clearly has devoted much time and attention to locating and reviewing the primary sources. She seems to be at the forefront of scholarship in this area. The book, however, was a bit disappointing. There was little or nothing about Serge's childhood and early years--when we first encounter him in the book it is 1919 and he is almost 30 (although there is a very little about his activities as an anarchist in France and Spain). I would have liked to know about his youth and young adulthood. Also, the narrative is not smooth. There were a few instances where (I think) virtually the same passage was repeated a few pages after it first appeared. Does anyone edit these books anymore? On a related point, the style is not elegant.
In addition, the author's perspective is clouded by her evident position as a true believer in socialism, albeit an opponent of tyranny a la Stalin. The result is that the author simply assumes that Serge's political and economic thought was sound and never stops to explain it, much less to subject it to any form of critical analysis.
That said, it is important that we read about Serge and the author has really done a commendable job. You will want to read more about him and by him when you have finished!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Gil Hyle on December 1, 2013
Format: Paperback
I think this book has also been published under the title: Victor Serge: The Course is Set on Hope. ‘Hope’ is, of course, the core sentiment of American capitalist culture, one of the three iconic emotions of Christianity (‘Faith, Hope and Charity’) and the soundbite of the Obama presidency. Serge was a bridging figure between revolutionary and mainstream intellectual culture. Concerning Serge, the questions is does he provide a better, less peripatetic guide to the Marxist view of hope than Ernst Bloch ?

Victor Serge could have been an icon of revolutionary hope. He survived Trotsky by a number of years. His loyalty to the revolutionary projects of the early twentieth century was undiminished. He was a talented novelist, a passable poet and a competent political journalist.

But he was also one of those people, with Mandel, Pablo, Gunawardena, Heijenoort, Cannon, Ta Thu Thau, Shachtman and slightly earlier, Nin whose failure to find a political path forward after Trotsky in the face of WW2 proved, the end of non-Stalinist bolshevism, although it has had a long, murky deathbed scene ever since.

Weissman is a fan and that proves to be a problem. If, for example, you compare this book to Stephen Koch’s ‘Double Lives: Stalin, Willi Munzenberg and the Seduction of the Intellectuals’ or to Rogovin’s 1937: Stalin’s Year of Terror’ or David Shearer’s Industry, State and Society in Stalin’s Russia, it does not bear the comparison well in terms of the substance of its analysis. I pick these books as covering different aspects of matters directly relevant to Serge’s life. The contrast shows how little Weissman, although very well read in the older works, has to say.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Alan Green on August 26, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is marvelous addition to the library of anyone who wishes to have a deeper understanding of the different currents in the revolutionary communist and anarchist mvements in the 20th Century. Ms Weissman has filled an enormous gap by writing this extremely sensitive biography of one of the greatest idealists of the 20th Century. Victor Serge was many things - a tremendously gifted writer with an astonishingly vast oeuvre, especially astonishing given the conditions of his life life in the time
many of his works were written . He was also an unflagging supporter of the rights of the oppressed everywhere , first as an anarchist, then as a Bolshevik living in Russia where he was a close associate of the leaders of the Russian Revolution; then as a member of the opposition led by Leon Trotsky to Stalin's ever increasing corruption of the ideals which had produced the revolution in the first place. A loyal supporter and close friend to Leon Trotsky for most of the latter's life though their political views began to diverge in the last part of the 1930's, he was one of the many people, most today unnamed and unremembered who devoted their entire lives to the revolutionary movement, and who battled against the development of fascism. Their energies were also an attempt to alert t the world to the horrors which the victory off fascism could unleash. Tragically for mankind these warnings were unheeded,leading to the unprecedented carnage and slaughter of World War II. Serge was imprisoned just about everywhere and by everyone - first in his teens in Belgium, later in Russia by Stalin. His survival of the Gulag can only be attributed to his international prestige as a writer, whichled to the intervention of the European literary world to free him.
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