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October: The Story of the Russian Revolution

by China Miéville

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5921529,933 (3.65)28
"Acclaimed fantasy author China Mieville plunges us into the year the world was turned upside down The renowned fantasy and science fiction writer China Mieville has long been inspired by the ideals of the Russian Revolution and here, on the centenary of the revolution, he provides his own distinctive take on its history. In February 1917, in the midst of bloody war, Russia was still an autocratic monarchy: nine months later, it became the first socialist state in world history. How did this unimaginable transformation take place? How was a ravaged and backward country, swept up in a desperately unpopular war, rocked by not one but two revolutions? This is the story of the extraordinary months between those upheavals, in February and October, of the forces and individuals who made 1917 so epochal a year, of their intrigues, negotiations, conflicts and catastrophes. From familiar names like Lenin and Trotsky to their opponents Kornilov and Kerensky; from the byzantine squabbles of urban activists to the remotest villages of a sprawling empire; from the revolutionary railroad Sublime to the ciphers and static of coup by telegram; from grand sweep to forgotten detail. Historians have debated the revolution for a hundred years, its portents and possibilities: the mass of literature can be daunting. But here is a book for those new to the events, told not only in their historical import but in all their passion and drama and strangeness. Because as well as a political event of profound and ongoing consequence, Mieville reveals the Russian Revolution as a breathtaking story"--… (more)
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Showing 1-5 of 15 (next | show all)
I'd give this something like 1.666 stars. I didn't dislike it. I admire China Mieville a good deal. I am socialistic in my political leanings and have been fascinated by the Russian Revolution since high school. So I was eager to plunge into Mieville's trawl through that frantic, thrilling, scary year of 1917. The Prologue, "The Pre-History of 1917," encapsulates preceding decades, introducing a typically Russian enormous cast of characters (there IS a Glossary of Personal Names in the back, which helps... a little). Lenin, for example, is introduced thus: "He is a man easily mythologized, idolised, demonised. To his enemies, he is a cold, mass-murdering monster; to his worshippers, a godlike genius; to his comrades and friends, a shy, quick-laughing lover of children and cats." Mieville is good at this: swift, sharp little portraits. And he needs to be: this episode in history is so stuffed with noblemen, soldiers, students, intellectuals, politicans, generals, workers, leaders and followers and disrupters in a kaleidoscope of tumbling factions, parties, dumas, soviets, zemstvos, councils, splits and schisms, coalitions and fractures that there is precious little time to spend on any one of them. It all moves along at a breakneck pace, a whirlwind of victories (Pyrrhic and otherwise) and reversals, progress and loss. This certainly reflects the stunning course of events over days (even hours) and weeks, but... this reader kept gulping for air, coming up after pages with little understanding of what had just happened. I started, stopped, took a break, tried again, but on page 122 read this sentence: "...immediately after the April Days, the Seventh All-Russian Conference of the Russian Social Democratic Workers Party...took place. There, Lenin added his new 'right' critique of the left to his left critique of the Bolshevik right." Understanding, naturally, that the Bolsheviks were the extreme left... I just couldn't do it any more. When Mieville takes a moment to slow down, as he does when Alexander's generals intercept him on his royal train to plead with him to abdicate, it is dramatic, tense, and even poignant, as the tsar agrees to abdicate in favor of his young son, only to be informed by the boy's physician that the boy is unlikely to live long enough to serve. This is why I don't want to say I "didn't like it." Perhaps it's my own impatience or lack of attention, but I simply got lost in the hubbub, and even Mieville's crisp, vivid, adjective-smart writing was not enough to hold me fast. Your mileage may vary.

juliestielstra.com ( )
  JulieStielstra | May 17, 2021 |
Ο "Οκτώβρης" του Miéville αποτελεί μια πολύ καλή εισαγωγή για όποια θέλει να πάρει μια ιδέα για όσα συνέβησαν στη Ρωσία το 1917. Η γραφή είναι μυθιστορηματική με κλιμακούμενη πλοκή, αν και κάποια κεφάλαια αφήνουν μια μουδιασμένη, βαλτώδη αίσθηση, παρόμοια με αυτή που πιθανώς κατά περιόδους να ένιωθαν και όσοι συμμετείχαν στα γεγονότα. Η επανάσταση δεν κράτησε ένα μήνα, όπως ίσως πολλοί έχουν την εντύπωση, αφού έχουμε συνηθίσει να αναφερόμαστε στην μπολσεβίκικη επανάσταση ως "Οκτωβριανή", ενώ παράλληλα υπήρξαν περίοδοι εντός του '17, κατά τις οποίες οι όποιες διεργασίες φαινόταν να ομαλοποιούνται και να επανέρχεται η εντύπωση -έστω και ψευδής- πως η Ρωσία επέστρεφε σε κάποια πορεία ομαλότητας.
Ο Miéville γνωρίζει καλά το αντικείμενό του, και το έργο του αντλεί πληροφορίες από πολλές πηγές. Κάποιες φορές αφήνει την εντύπωση πως, αγωνιώντας να μην αδικήσει καμία από τις πηγές του, προσπαθεί να τις συμπιέσει και να μας τις παρουσιάσει όλες, ίσως και λίγο άτακτα. Στην αρχή αυτό ίσως ξενίσει την αναγνώστρια, αν και -ίσως και χωρίς πραγματικά να είναι αυτός ο σκοπός του συγγραφέα- αυτός ο βομβαρδισμός φαινομενικά άτακτων πληροφοριών καταφέρνει να αναπαραστήσει ως ένα βαθμό, τον πανικό που θα πρέπει να επικρατούσε ανάμεσα σε όσους πάλευαν να επιβάλουν τις θέσεις τους σε ένα αχανές κράτος, όπου μετά την παραίτηση του Τσάρου είχε προκύψει ένα τεράστιο κενό εξουσίας και μια χαοτική και άγρια καθημερινότητα.
Ο Miéville καταφέρνει να κρατήσει μια σχετικά ουδέτερη στάση απέναντι στους πρωταγωνιστές εκείνων των ημερών. Οι μπολσεβίκοι δεν παρουσιάζονται ως αλάθητοι, και σε καμία περίπτωση ως σίγουροι στα βήματά τους και ξεκάθαροι στους στόχους τους. Οι κομμουνιστές είναι άπειροι, έμπλεοι ενθουσιασμού, έτοιμοι να κάνουν τραγικά λάθη, αλλά και με την τύχη με το μέρος τους, αφού, από τη μία, αντίπαλοί τους έχουν απομείνει μια χούφτα Ρώσων αστών, οι οποίοι είναι ανίκανοι να αντιληφθούν την αγανάκτηση του απλού λαού, με αποτέλεσμα να πράττουν μεγαλύτερα και τραγικότερα λάθη από τους μπολσεβίκους του Λένιν, ενώ, από την άλλη, οι σύμμαχοί τους (αναρχικοί και υπόλοιποι αριστεροί) αρπάζουν τις κατάλληλες ευκαιρίες για να ξεσηκώσουν τα πλήθη, όταν ακριβώς η μπολσεβίκικη ηγεσία πελαγώνει και παλινωδεί μπροστά στις τεράστιες ευθύνες που πρέπει να αναλάβει.
Γενικά, ένα μυθιστορηματικά γραμμένο, ιστορικά ακριβές, αλλά όχι πλήρες έργο για την κομμουνιστική επανάσταση του 1917.

"...πώς μπορεί ένα κίνημα να είναι σοσιαλιστικό σε μια ανώριμη χώρα με έναν αδύναμο και περιθωριακό καπιταλισμό, με έναν τεράστιο και 'οπισθοδρομικό' πληθυσμό χωρικών και αγροτών και με μια μοναρχία που δεν είχε την αξιοπρέπεια να υποστεί την αστική της επανάσταση;"
"...οι μπολσεβίκοι ηγέτες συνέχιζαν να συζητούν τι να κάνουν, όταν πληροφορήθηκαν ότι οι οπλισμένες μάζες πλησίαζαν. Κάποιος είπε αγκομαχώντας: >... Το κίνημα αυτό δεν μπορούσε όμως να αναστραφεί. Το ζήτημα λοιπόν για τους μπολσεβίκους ήταν εάν θα το αποφύγουν, εάν θα ενωθούν μαζί του ή εάν θα επιχειρήσουν να το καθοδηγήσουν."
"Ένας μεγαλόσωμος εργάτης άνοιξε δρόμο, πήγε κοντά και άρχισε να κραδαίνει τη γροθιά του απειλητικά στο πρόσωπο του Τσέρνοφ. > βρυχήθηκε, επαναλαμβάνοντας μια από τις πιο ξακουστές φράσεις του 1917, >"
"Φταίει ίσως ο φόβος ότι η αναγνώριση των λαθών υπονομεύει την εξουσία. Η τυπική μέθοδος της αριστεράς ήταν να αποσιωπά θρασύτατα τα λάθη της και μετά, όσο το δυνατόν πιο αργά, ώστε να έχει κατακάτσει εντελώς ο κουρνιαχτός, να παρατηρεί παρεμπιπτόντως ότι 'φυσικά', όπως ξέρουν όλοι, 'έγιναν λάθη', αλλά χάθηκαν μες στην ομίχλη του χρόνου."
Σε αυτά τα αποσπάσματα συμπυκνώνεται η ρωσική επανάσταση. Μια επανάσταση η οποία αρχικά θεωρήθηκε ανέφικτη ακόμα και από αυτούς που την επιθυμούσαν περισσότερο απ' όλους.
( )
  Stamat | Apr 20, 2021 |
Starts out strong but meanders way too quickly. I was hard-pressed to keep up with the different factions, their leaders, and who held control at any given time. ( )
  skolastic | Feb 2, 2021 |
This is an interesting angle on the Russian revolution, where instead of a bird's eye view with a long list of historical antecedents, we get the daily development of the revolution, from February to October 1917. Instead of the "inevitable wave of history" feeling I often get when reading history, with October I felt a real connection to the time and place of the revolution. Besides the fact that this makes for a more compelling story, it also helps dispel the notion that there's anything inevitable or uniquely Russian about how the revolution ultimately panned out.

The book suffers a bit from having to include so many actors and separate interest groups in a single narrative. There are just too many names to remember. (There's a glossary, which given that I was reading this on a Kindle was not much help.) The reading is probably more enjoyable to those who already have some decent knowledge of the revolution, which prior to reading this I did not.
( )
  fegolac | Dec 26, 2020 |
An excellent and lively telling of both the February and October revolutions in 1917, with a particularly good look at the intra-Bolshevik and intra-left factionalism that helped determine the final outcome. Miéville's novelistic chops are on full display here and are a welcome means of capturing the dynamism and contingency of that pregnant moment in world history. There are moments when the specific actors get lost amidst each other, but the final moments of Kerensky's Provisional Government are told with aplomb. Great narrative of these heady days. ( )
  goliathonline | Jul 7, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 15 (next | show all)
China Miéville’s contribution in October is to get away from ideological battles and go back to the dazzling reality of events. There is no schadenfreude here about the revolution’s bloody aftermath, nor patronising talk of experiments that failed because they were doomed to fail. Known as a left-wing activist and author of fantasy or what he himself calls weird fiction, Miéville writes with the brio and excitement of an enthusiast who would have wanted the revolution to succeed. But he is primarily interested in the dramatic narrative – the weird facts – of the most turbulent year in Russia’s history: strikes, protests, riots, looting, mass desertions from the army, land occupations by hungry peasants and pitched battles between workers and Cossacks, not just in Petrograd but along the length and breadth of a vast country.
added by SnootyBaronet | editThe Guardian, Jonathan Steele
 
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'...........................
...........................'

Nikolai Chernyshevsky,
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To Gurru
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Un hombre contempla el cielo, desde una isla azotada por el viento.
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"Acclaimed fantasy author China Mieville plunges us into the year the world was turned upside down The renowned fantasy and science fiction writer China Mieville has long been inspired by the ideals of the Russian Revolution and here, on the centenary of the revolution, he provides his own distinctive take on its history. In February 1917, in the midst of bloody war, Russia was still an autocratic monarchy: nine months later, it became the first socialist state in world history. How did this unimaginable transformation take place? How was a ravaged and backward country, swept up in a desperately unpopular war, rocked by not one but two revolutions? This is the story of the extraordinary months between those upheavals, in February and October, of the forces and individuals who made 1917 so epochal a year, of their intrigues, negotiations, conflicts and catastrophes. From familiar names like Lenin and Trotsky to their opponents Kornilov and Kerensky; from the byzantine squabbles of urban activists to the remotest villages of a sprawling empire; from the revolutionary railroad Sublime to the ciphers and static of coup by telegram; from grand sweep to forgotten detail. Historians have debated the revolution for a hundred years, its portents and possibilities: the mass of literature can be daunting. But here is a book for those new to the events, told not only in their historical import but in all their passion and drama and strangeness. Because as well as a political event of profound and ongoing consequence, Mieville reveals the Russian Revolution as a breathtaking story"--

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