This little composition is not intended to be a recapitulation of the historic and biographic content that was eloquently disposed onto the pages of Serge's memoir. So though this review may appear to be on a work of belletristic nature, it is only because it is the aesthetic properties of his memoir that I found to be particularly profound. The francophonic author, born in Belgium, had joined the Bolshevik party after his arrival in Russia, which was only a short time after the October revolution of 1917. His experiences within the Soviet borders are largely what are expounded upon in the work. After the death of Lenin, he joined the Trotskyist/Left Opposition camp of Soviet politics in disgust of Stalin (though even broke relations with that movement over disagreements regarding the Krondstadt uprising and the role of the Cheka), which ultimately led to his arrest (he was eventually able to obtain a visa allowing him and his immediate family to depart from the Soviet Union, unfortunately the rest of his friends and family died in prisons and gulags).
Serge beautifully narrates in his memoirs a despondent environment but coupled it with a reluctant, but still, sanguine attitude. His memoirs are a reflection of an immensely complex personality, an extremely moral character, and above everything else, a genuine and categorical humanist. A piece of romanticism that really could melt the hardest of hearts, it puts the transcendentalists to shame! Throughout his memoirs, Serge recollects from his childhood, through the tumultuous beginning of the Soviet Union, the Spanish Civil War, and the Nazis moving through Europe. Solemnly, he describes the transition of many of his comrades shift from romantic idealists to brutal pragmatists. In contrast, it is also a tribute to his comrades who would sooner give up their lives than their principles, friend after friend, comrade after comrade, their lives prove to be nothing more than ephemeral, giving way to suicide, to execution, to illness, to starvation, to madness. Serge struggled internally with the concept of violence, with his utmost priority focused on humanity, he defended the initial revolutionary violence, but as he witnessed the ideology descend into bleak and brutal nihilism, he broke relations with all his former comrades, including Trotsky, who he affectionately referred to as "Old Man".
I beyond recommend this piece of literature, it is a must read for everyone.
Some closing words from Serge himself, of what he learned from his direct and personal experiences:
"What can I say that is at all essential, to these forty faces gathered together in the twilight between sky and sea, and blending with the stars? I have a faint inkling of what is really essential: that we have not lost after all, that we have lost only for the moment…It is no longer the revolutionaries who are making the world's tremendous revolution; it is the tyrannies that have set it going, it is the actual technique of the modern world that is breaking brutally with the past and throwing the peoples of entire continents into the necessity for starting life afresh on new foundations. That these foundations must be of social justice, of rational organization, of respect for the individual, of liberty, is for me a wonderfully evident fact which, little by little, is asserting itself beyond the inhumanity of the present time. The future seems to me full of possibilities greater than any we have glimpsed throughout the past. May the passion, the experience and even the faults of my fighting generation have some small power to illumine the way forward!"