The book begins in 1906, with Serge describing his impoverished, idealistic days as an activist in the left-wing movements of Europe; it ends with the years 1936 to 1941 after his release from exile to a remote city in a time of famine, expulsion from the Soviet Union, escape from Nazi agents in Paris, and flight to Mexico as a political refugee. More than a personal memoir, this insider's history of the revolution and its allied upheavals fills in the human details that add to our understanding of how mass movements take place, how governments stand and fall, how individuals survive in struggles between ideologies. It is a human memoir and, though set in an inhumane time, during a clash among powerful ideals, it is a humane memoir.
“. . . one of the most vivid and convincing revelations of a social rebel’s mind ever written.”—The Times
“This is fearsomely good writing. And the ultimate hero of Memoirs of a Revolutionary is not the one we would normally suspect: not Lenin, not Trotsky, not the multitudes of French, German, Italian, Spanish and Russian Anarchists, Communists and radicals that Serge knew. . . Rather, the hero in this story is Serge himself.”—RALPH
“I can't think of anyone else who has written about the revolutionary movement in this century with Serge's combination of moral insight and intellectual richness.”—Dwight Macdonald
“An extraordinary time capsule from the darkest hours of the twentieth century. Although often compared to Orwell, Serge is a more noble and irreconcilable figure. This book—written as the GPU was exterminating the last of the Bolshevik old guard-is a fiery testament to political conscience and revolutionary hope. Through Serge, we know something of those gigantic but largely forgotten figures: the anarchist and communist opponents of Stalin.”—Mike Davis
“The best account of [Serge's] life remain his “Memoirs,” and one hopes its re-publication wins Serge the wider readership he deserves. . . . An impassioned work of burning intensity, Serge's “Memoirs,” charts not only his own harrowing odyssey through the revolutionary maelstrom of interwar Europe but also the tragic fortunes of an entire generation of leftists and fellow revolutionaries . . . For the contemporary reader, “Memoirs,” still offers one of the finest—and most terrifying—accounts of the degradation of the Russian Revolution into murderous tyranny and bureaucratic strangulation . . . Serge's capacity to convey roiling human passion never dims; whether he is writing about allies or enemies, his subjects live and breathe.”—Los Angeles Times Book Review