Men in Prison
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“Everything in this book is fictional and everything is true,” wrote Victor Serge in the epigraph to Men in Prison. “I have attempted, through literary creation, to bring out the general meaning and human content of a personal experience.”
The author of Men in Prison served five years in French penitentiaries (1912–1917) for the crime of “criminal association”—in fact for his courageous refusal to testify against his old comrades, the infamous “Tragic Bandits” of French anarchism. “While I was still in prison,” Serge later recalled, “fighting off tuberculosis, insanity, depression, the spiritual poverty of the men, the brutality of the regulations, I already saw one kind of justification of that infernal voyage in the possibility of describing it. Among the thousands who suffer and are crushed in prison—and how few men really know that prison!—I was perhaps the only one who could try one day to tell all… There is no novelist’s hero in this novel, unless that terrible machine, prison, is its real hero. It is not about ‘me,’ about a few men, but about men, all men crushed in that dark corner of society.”
Ironically, Serge returned to writing upon his release from a GPU prison in Soviet Russia, where he was arrested as an anti-Stalinist subversive in 1928. He completed Men in Prison (and two other novels) in “semi-captivity” before he was rearrested and deported to the Gulag in 1933. Serge’s classic prison novel has been compared to Dostoyevsky’s House of the Dead, Koestler’s Spanish Testament, Genet’s Miracle of the Rose, and Solzhenitsyn’s One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovitch both for its authenticity and its artistic achievement.
This edition features a substantial new introduction by translator Richard Greeman, situating the work in Serge’s life and times.
Bonnot gang, literary, anti-Stalinist, Soviet Russia, anarchism, penology, Dostoyevsky