OverviewVictor 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 A Blaze in a Desert comprises Victor Serge's sole published book of poetry, Resistance (1938), his unpublished manuscript Messages (1946), and his last poem, "Hands" (1947).
Reviews"Victor Serge was a major novelist, a revolutionary, and a historical witness, so it is perhaps not surprising that his poetry has been overlooked. But his poetry is for real. It is as grounded in specifics as you might expect from a fighter in some of the twentieth century's great struggles, and as visionary as you'd hope from a disciple of Rimbaud and a friend to the Surrealists. Reading it is like coming upon an unsuspected corridor in the house of literature. James Brook's lucid translation does it full justice." —Luc Sante, author,The Other Paris; translator, Novels in Three Lines by Félix Fénéon
"In these dark times, the poetry of Victor Serge illuminates the deep continuum of revolutionary history. As all great work, it shows the power of both resistance & acceptance. Serge is noted for his prose but his poetry is in many ways more moving. It inspires the reader to stay true to the revolutionary spirit and will in its compassion, defiance, and outrage." —David Meltzer, author, San Francisco Beat: Talking with the Poets, When I Was a Poet, and Two-Way Mirror: A Poetry Notebook
"In this meticulously translated collection of Victor Serge's poetry, emotion is the force that swells beneath the poet's acute observations and his reasoning, sobriety, and restraint." —Summer Brenner, author, Nearly Nowhere and My Life in Clothes
"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
"An international rebel with a cause, ever the champion of the downpressed and foreclosed, and of 'all the broken young wings,' Victor Serge—deported, exiled, hounded from country to country and continent to continent—inhabited a 'planet without visas.' But in A Blaze in a Desert Serge's poetry, which witnessed the rise of modern totalitarian political ideologies and ideologues, comes home to Walt Whitman's band of brothers. And James Brook's erudite introduction guides us well through Serge's engagement with poetry and poets and the enduring struggle for justice." —Gloria Frym, author, Mind over Matter and The True Patriot
Author BiographyVictor 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. Richard Greeman (afterword) is the translator of five novels by Victor Serge, including Men in Prison and Birth of Our Power from PM Press. He has published literary, political, and biographical studies of Serge in many languages.