Delivering searing criticism on the psychosis of absolute power, Victor Serge’s fifth novel to be featured in my personal blog, For the Desk Drawer, is a masterly work. The Case of Comrade Tulayev was written in 1942 and is situated in the context of the Great Terror in Soviet Russia orchestrated by Joseph Stalin. In the sequence that constitutes the ‘defeat-in-victory’ trilogy (preceded by Midnight in the Century  and succeeded by The Long Dusk [1943-5]), the novel intersects in several subtle ways with Serge’s other books. The Case of Comrade Tulayev is a chronicle of the Moscow arrests and show trials in the 1930s that pulls in a myriad of characters as well as the overbearing appearance of ‘the Chief’, Stalin himself. It does so by offering at least two intersections to aspects present in Serge’s earlier novels. First, it offers a set of intersecting elements linked to specific characters that appear in the earlier books; second, it offers direct intersections on the theme of space and the state. How the spatial logistics of the state, how the modern state organises space, and how the state engenders social relations in space are thus a quintessential feature of The Case of Comrade Tulayev.
Tag Archives: Victor Serge
Following on from my previous posts, one of the most striking features of Victor Serge’s writings has to be the way he captures spatial arbiters that shape the practices of empowerment and containment within the territorial form of the city. Flowing across his documentary or witness novels, his political writings, his poetry, or his memoirs as a revolutionary is a sense of the political processes shaping urban society, the space of the city, and the possibilities of revolution rising up from the streets. Nowhere is this more evident that in his novel Conquered City  set in the years of the Russian Civil War (1919-1921) in the frontline city of Red Petrograd. Written just prior to his years of captivity in Soviet Russia at the hands of Stalin’s purges (from imprisonment in the Lubianka to exile in Orenburg on the Ural River) and completed in concise fragments that could…
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