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Memoirs of a Revolutionist (1889)

by Peter Kropotkin

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453854,858 (3.83)12
This fascinating story of the dramatic conversion from prince to anarchist provides a study of the early anarchist movement and an extraordinary portrait of the Russia of Kropotkin's youth.

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Showing 4 of 4
Kropotkin certainly had an interesting life: quite apart from telling us about the complexities of anarchist politics, secret societies and being a political prisoner in several different countries, he gets to describe his experiences growing up in an aristocratic family in Moscow, serving as a page at Alexander II's court in St Petersburg, taking part in all sorts of exciting expeditions into unknown country as a young officer on the Amur river, and doing important scientific research (he was a physical geographer). So these are by no means dull memoirs! But they are sometimes a little bit frustrating. Kropotkin was writing from English exile in 1899, with the Russian revolutions still to come, and at a time when many of his friends and political associates were still in danger of reprisals from the Russian authorities. So there are plenty of important things in his life he doesn't tell us about because they haven't happened yet, and others that he's forced to leave rather vague. And others again that he's written about elsewhere and doesn't repeat - this isn't a work of political philosophy, although of course the whole text is informed by his political ideals.

And there are also a surprising number of normal, practical things in his life he simply seems to have forgotten to write about, so that, for example, his wife pops up in the text for the first time about three hundred pages in, as though she's always been there, but he in fact he has never told us her name or anything about when they married. (English Wikipedia doesn't mention her at all, but the German version tells us she was Sophie Ananiew, and they married in 1878, when he was living in Switzerland. From what Kropotkin tells us himself, we can deduce that she was a scientist and had studied at Geneva university.)

The book was written in English (he later made a Russian version as well), but it never feels like a book written in the author's second language. Especially in the earlier parts of the book, there's a lot that is moving, entertaining, exciting, and exotic, but it's never - at least once it gets out of the classroom - boastful. Kropotkin must have been a remarkable man, and he presumably knew it, but he doesn't want to be the one to say it. There's a lovely moment shortly after he has arrived in England for the first time, under a false name because he's on the run from the Russian police, and is doing some scientific journalism. The editor of Nature asks him to review a couple of new Russian books that have come into the office. Of course, they turn out to be publications of his own scientific work, written whilst he was in prison, and he is put into something of a quandary: should he blow his cover or infringe scientific ethics by reviewing his own work? He compromises by summarising the books without expressing an opinion on their merits (which would of course have got him anathematised here on LibraryThing...).

Worthwhile, definitely, but a bit patchy. The opening chapters are marvellous, and I can see how you might become a dedicated fan of this book, but it's probably not the book you should turn to first if you want to learn about anarchist political ideas or the history of the workers' movement. ( )
2 vote thorold | Sep 15, 2016 |
329. Memoirs of a Revolutionist, by Peter Kropotkin (read 9 May 1947) When I finished reading this book I said: "Finished tonight Kropotkin's Memoirs, written in 1899. He was an anarchist. Not much of a book, sllghtly interesting sometimes." ( )
  Schmerguls | Oct 18, 2013 |
I've read this every few years since I was ten (equals: I've read this a lot of times..). Ah dear me! The romance of czarist Russia! His walk with the serfs on the annual trek to his family's summer residence! (He is *Prince* Peter Kropotkin to you, and I'll thank you to remember it..:-) The whole work bedazzled me when I was young, and even now, the life of this anarchist saint is a wonderful read, full of drama and the fervour for a better world. To this day tour guides at the great prison fortress of St Peter still tell the story of Kropotkin's escape, but hear you can read it in the first person, but that story is only one of many treasures to be found here... ( )
2 vote Karen_Wells | Aug 26, 2008 |
Available as a free audio book from librivox.org
  captbirdseye | Aug 6, 2014 |
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» Add other authors (6 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Peter Kropotkinprimary authorall editionscalculated
Brandes, GeorgIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Goodman, PaulIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Newman, BarnettForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Walter, NicolasIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ward, ColinEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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This fascinating story of the dramatic conversion from prince to anarchist provides a study of the early anarchist movement and an extraordinary portrait of the Russia of Kropotkin's youth.

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