Victor Serge’s Notebooks: 1936-1947

A book release presentation with translator Mitch Abidor and Jacob Pittman

In 1936, Victor Serge—poet, novelist, and revolutionary—left the Soviet Union for Paris, the rare opponent of Stalin to escape the Terror. In 1940, after the Nazis marched into Paris, Serge fled France for Mexico, where he would spend he rest of his life. His years in Mexico were marked by isolation, poverty, peril, and grief; his Notebooks, however, brim with resilience, curiosity, outrage, a passionate love of life, and superb writing. Serge paints haunting portraits of Osip Mandelstam, Stefan Zweig “the Old Man” Trotsky; argues with André Breton; and, awaiting his wife’s delayed arrival from Europe, writes her passionate love letters. He describes the sweep of the Mexican landscape, visits an erupting volcano, and immerses himself in the country’s history and culture. He looks back on his life and the fate of the revolution. He broods on the course of the war and the world to come after. In the darkest of circumstances, he responds imaginatively, thinks critically, feels deeply, and finds reason to hope.

MITCH ABIDOR has published over a dozen volumes of translation, including a collection of Victor Serge’s anarchist writings, Anarchists Never Surrender. His writings have appeared in the New York Times, The New York Review of Books, The Paris Review, and Cineaste. Mitch has been translated into German and Turkish. He is currently writing a history of the Bisbee Depredation of 1917.

JACOB PITTMAN is the publisher of Jewish Currents, the magazine of the Jewish left.


This is a free event.



Victor Serge: Midnight in the Century

In 1933, Victor Serge was arrested by Stalin’s police, interrogated, and held in solitary confinement for more than eighty days. Released, he spent two years in exile in remote Orenburg. These experiences were the inspiration for Midnight in the Century, Serge’s searching novel about revolutionaries living in the shadow of Stalin’s betrayal of the revolution. Among the exiles—-true believers in a cause that no longer exists—-gathered in the town of Chenor, or Black Waters, are the granitefaced old Bolshevik Ryzhik, stoic yet gentle Varvara, and Rodion, a young, self-educated worker who is trying to make sense of the world and history. ey struggle in the unlikely company of Russian Orthodox Old Believers who are also suffering for their faith. Against unbelievable odds, the young Rodion will escape captivity and find a new life in the wild. Surviving the dark winter night of the soul, he rediscovers the only real, and most radical, form of resistance: hope.

Edwin Frank has been the editor of the the New York Review Books Classics series since its beginning in 1999. His Snake Train: Poems 1984-2013 will come out in 2014, and he is working on a book about the novel in the twentieth century and the twentieth century in the novel.

Richard Greeman is best known for his studies and translations of novelist and revolutionary Victor Serge (1890–1947). Greeman also writes regularly about politics, international class struggles and revolutionary theory. Co-founder of the Praxis Research and Education Center in Moscow, and director of the International Victor Serge Foundation, Greeman splits his time between Montpellier, France and New York City.

Christopher Winks is Associate Professor of Comparative Literature at Queens College/The City University of New York and a translator. His scholarship has particular emphasis on Caribbean and Latin American literature and African-American studies. He is the author of Symbolic Cities in Caribbean Literature, published by Palgrave Macmillan, an incisive comparative study that analyzes Caribbean literary representations of magic and invisible cities in new and exciting ways.

Jenny Greeman is an artist and educator living and working in NYC.

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