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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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543929,226 (4.16)1 / 87
A high government official is shot on the street on a cold winter night, and the search for the killer begins. In Victor Serge's panoramic vision of the Stalin era, 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 have been accused. But this, the best novel ever written about the Stalinist purges, is also a classic tale of risk and adventure that stands beside Malraux's Man's Fateand Hemingway's For Whom the Bell Tolls.… (more)

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There are aspects of this which I confuse with Yury Dombrovsky; both Faculty of Useless Knowedge and Serge's Case of Comrade Tulayev affected me deeply. The gradual ratcheting in this one was amazing. ( )
  jonfaith | Feb 22, 2019 |
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 |
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The post-1934 spy fever may have had a core of rationality when it began, or was inaugurated, but its special feature was the sheer mania and panic in which it engulfed society, becoming an exhausting, unstoppable thing in itself. At one point (Doris Lessing describes it somewhere in her account of abandoning communism) medieval instruments of torture were taken from Russian museums and deployed in the cellars and interrogation pits of Stalin’s police. The image is perfect for evoking the choking medieval nightmare of plague-dread, xenophobia, and persecution that enveloped the Soviet Union and destroyed the last remnants of its internationalism. If the characters and automatons of The Case of Comrade Tulayev understand any one thing, it is the idea that the enemy is everywhere, and everyone...

Given the contempt Serge always felt for Stalin’s collaborators, a remarkable feature of The Case of Comrade Tulayev is its chiaroscuro, in one passage the monstrous figure of “The Chief” is represented as a prisoner of fate, only pretending to arbitrate the destiny of a sixth of the earth’s surface and of every one of its inhabitants... In its remorseless emphasis on the ineluctable along with its insistence on the vitality of individual human nature, The Case of Comrade Tulayev is one of the most Marxist novels ever written—as it is also one of the least.
added by SnootyBaronet | editThe Atlantic, Christopher Hitchens

» 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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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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