A Note: Our NYRB Book Club’s Next Read

Every two months, our NYRB-centric Book Club meets to discuss our latest pick. This time around, it’s Victor Serge‘s Conquered City. It may be a bit too late in the month to join in on the next discussion, but if you are interested in joining and receiving the next Book Club choice at 15% off (available only to members), feel free to send us an email about it: argobookshop [at] gmail [dot] com

Victor Serge’s novel Conquered City is a stunning first-hand account of the 1919-20 Russian civil war in St. Petersburg and the Bolsheviks’ “doomed gamble” that a Proletariat Dictatorship could permanently overthrow human bondage through the “righteous” use of terror and force:

“We have conquered everything and everything has slipped out of our grasp. We have conquered bread, and there is famine. We have declared peace to a war-weary world, and war has moved into every house. We have proclaimed the liberation of men, and we need prisons, an “iron” discipline – yes, to pour our human weakness into brazen molds in order to accomplish what is perhaps beyond our strength – and we are the bringers of dictatorship. we have proclaimed fraternity, but it is “fraternity and death” in reality. We have founded the Republic of Labor, and the factories are dying, grass is growing in their yards. We wanted each to give according to his strength and each to receive according to his needs; and here we are, privileged in the middle of generalized misery, since we are less hungry than others! Will we succeed in overthrowing the ancient law which bends us to its will at the very moment when we believe we are escaping it?”
– Jesse

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