The Case of Comrade Tulayev
by Victor Serge, introduction by Susan Sontag, translated from the French by Willard R. Trask
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’sFor Whom the Bell Tolls and André Malraux’s Man’s Fate.
One of the great 20th-Century Russian novels...there are extraordinary passages of natural description, a beauty that defies what takes place within it.
— Nicholas Lezard, The Guardian
The brilliance of his novel utterly ineluctable as it sweeps across 1930's Europe from the gulags to the Kremlin, to Paris and to Barcelona.
— The Times (London)
The Case of Comrade Tulayev is gritty and rough, saturated in the squalor of Moscow life; but it also pulses with lyrical flights that take us up into the stars, which represent for Serge the regenerative, transformative moments the History promises but has yet to deliver. Tulayev is infused with mysticism; it is a work of cosmic longing, as if Serge is turning to the eternity of the universe itself to avoid the utter despair right in front of his face.
— Matthew Price, Bookforum
It is a protest novel no less significant and no more dated than Solzhenitsyn's One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. These novels recreate the feel of daily existence years ago, animate the history texts, and give readers an irreplaceable personal perspective. Books like these ensure the past is not forgotten....The quality of life depicted in The Case of Comrade Tulayev showed why the Stalinist monolith could not endure.
— Joe Auciello, Socialist Action
Given the standard of fortitude, and given the contempt Serge always felt for Stalin's collaborators, a remarkable feature of The Case of Comrade Tulayev is its chiaroscuro....That Serge intended no lenience here we may be sure, but we may likewise be sure that he would never have swallowed the later euphemisms and half-truths of Khrushchev, putting blame for all the enormities of an epoch on the evil of a single individual.
— Christopher Hitchens, The Atlantic Monthly
Serge can recognize the range of experience and responses that make up the texture of life in even the most nightmarishly repressive system.