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Victor Serge translator James Brook
September 13, 2017 @ 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm
This is the East Bay book launch for A Blaze in a Desert: Selected Poems by Victor Serge, translated and edited by James Brook (PM Press).
Victor 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 activist 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 . . .
Like Serge’s extraordinary novels, A Blaze in a Desert: Selected Poems bears witness to 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 — as well as tributes to the living who, like him, endured prison, exile, and bitter disappointment in the revolutions of the first half of the twentieth century.
“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 of The Other Paris
James Brook 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.