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The Case of Comrade Tulayev by Victor Serge

The Case of Comrade Tulayev

by Victor Serge

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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This book is set during the late 1930's, at the height of the Stalinist purges. Comrade Tulayev, a high party official, is assassinated in a random, unplanned crime of opportunity by an anonymous clerk. The system demanded convictions, and thus began a series of prosecutions of innocent long-time party members. They are arrested and interrogated. In some cases, false confessions are elicited. Some of those arrested are exiled; some are executed.

No one is exempt. Even High Commissar Erchov, who was the official initially conducting the investigation, is arrested. Even men who were close friends with Stalin. Even Deportee Ryzhik, who prior to his arrest, had lived for many years thousands of miles from the scene of the crime, in exile in a remote Siberian village peopled only by a few peasants and one government official stationed there as his guard.

This book was recommended to me after I read The Whisperers, a nonfiction history of the Stalinist years and its effects on ordinary Soviet people. While The Case of Comrade Tulayev explores similar issues, the people it focuses on are, ironically, some of the very people who created the system that allowed the purges to occur. Highly recommended. ( )
  arubabookwoman | May 3, 2017 |
A good, but not great, read

This book was a bit too wandering for my taste. I had expected a tightly-woven plot, but the author digressed too much with philosophical musings.
  oparaxenos | Nov 27, 2015 |
Adorno's famous statement - that it is barbaric to write lyric poetry after Auschwitz –is an expression of a more general dilemma: how does art deal with the horrors of reality, and is it indeed appropriate to create an aesthetic experience based on horror? In the case of this novel, the horror is the Great Purge of 1934-8, or the Yezhovshchina, as it is called in Russian, and the novel stands on a par with Akhmatova's long poem Requiem as both an indictment and a testament to what occurred.

Read the full review onThe Lectern ( )
10 vote tomcatMurr | Sep 13, 2012 |
I hate to spoil the love in but The Case of Comrade Tulayev didn't really work for me. The book might as well be a collection of short stories of individuals affected by the murder of Tulayev. Some of the characters featured in their respective chapters are interesting but many are pretty mundane. Even those who do get a simple narrative, which allows us to become involved with them, do suffer under the weight of Serge's Soviet ruminations. Again, some of this is interesting but when it goes on solidly for a densely packed 350 pages it does become tiresome. As Susan Sontag says in her unfairly disparaging introduction this isn't something as straightforward as Solzhenitsyn.

I guess that's what I was hoping for here and why I was disappointed. It's an interesting era and Serge does a very good job of bringing to light the senseless stupidity, horror and justification of the purges but there's a bit too much ideology for my tastes and not enough fiction. ( )
  DRFP | Mar 19, 2011 |
This book is a forgotten masterpiece! Its author, Victor Serge, was born in Belgium in 1890, of exiled russian parents, become an anarchist, went to revolutionary Russia in 1919 where he fought for the Bolsheviks, then became a left oppositionist to Stalin, being expelled from the Party, emprisioned and deported to Central Asia, then expelled from the Soviet Union in 1936 as a result of an international campaign. He died in Mexico in 1947. Of his many works, this novel is widely regarded as his fictional masterpiece, considered by many as the finest piece of literature ever written about the stalinist purges. This is indeed a wonderfully conceived work, with a structure that in a certain sense seems to mirror conditions under Stalin's reign: Tulayev, a member of the Central Committee of the USSR Communist Party is murdered by mere chance, in the first chapter, by an anonymous disgruntled moscovite youth. Then, in suceeding chapters, members of government, party funcionaries, and known oppositionists (all of them entirely innocent of this particular crime,) are charged of being part of a wide conspiracy, arrested and interrogated. As the action unfolds, the diverse independent characters become ever more connected, at least in the perpective of the officials in charge of the investigation, not a few of which end up also arrested as conspirators... After a number of life sentences for the supposed plot are passed on and duly executed, the true culprit discover, by chance, in the last chapter, the tragic dimensions his act has produced. The way the main investigator of the case deals with the anonymous letter he receives from the murderer is a telling parable of a totalitariam state contempt for the truth. All this evolved story is written with such a superb wit, and even brilliancy at times, that the reading of this book is made into an indelible experience. ( )
  FPdC | May 24, 2010 |
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» Add other authors (4 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Victor Sergeprimary authorall editionscalculated
Sontag, SusanIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Trask, William R.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Book description
High-ranking government official Comrade Tulayev is shot dead in the street.  The subsequent investigation brings together a host of suspects.  Their only connection?  Their innocence.  Author Victor Serge directly confronted the Stalinist purges and Soviet mentality in this novel, considered a tour de force.
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One cold Moscow night, Comrade Tulayev, a high government official, is shot dead on the street, and the search for the killer begins. In this panoramic vision of the Soviet Great Terror, the investigation leads all over the world, netting a whole series of suspects whose only connection is their innocence--at least of the crime of which they stand accused. But "The Case of Comrade Tulayev," unquestionably the finest work of fiction ever written about the Stalinist purges, is not just a story of a totalitarian state. Marked by the deep humanity and generous spirit of its author, the legendary anarchist and exile Victor Serge, it is also a classic twentieth-century tale of risk, adventure, and unexpected nobility to set beside Ernest Hemingway's" For Whom the Bell Tolls" and Andre Malraux's "Man's Fate."… (more)

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