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The Case of Comrade Tulayev

4.11 of 5 stars 4.11  ·  rating details  ·  395 ratings  ·  50 reviews
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. ButThe Case of Co ...more
Kindle Edition, 400 pages
Published (first published 1949)
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Nov 28, 2011 David marked it as spurned  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nyrb
I'm abandoning this one by the roadside like an old shoe or a sack of dead lithium batteries. It probably wasn't fair to Comrade Serge to embark upon his novel immediately after a Chekhov compilation. (It's not likely he would blossom in the shade of the master.) But I had hope. A fictional indictment of (the realities of) Stalinism? What's not to love, right? The Case of Comrade Tulayev may call itself a novel, but it's essentially a collection of related short stories. A Stalinist-era politica ...more
Chantal Delsol made a comment in one of her recent books to the effect that Communism never received the disapprobation that it merited due to the extant perception that its crimes were perpetrated for—and its foundational theories developed from—good intentions, a generosity never extended to its Fascist coevals. When you factor in the powerful rational strains within its evolving form—the philosophical rigor, scientific drapery, dialectic propulsion and inexorable historical necessity—you have ...more
Here's a real corker for you. The setting is late 1930s Moscow. Joseph Stalin and his henchmen are in the process of committing one of the twentieth century's greatest crimes in the rounding up, framing, trial and execution of their fellow Bolsheviks. This period has become known as The Great Terror. Wikipedia describes it as a period ". . . of campaigns of political repression and persecution . . . that involved a large-scale purge of the Communist Party and government officials, repression of ...more
This is supposed to be a classic about life under Stalin. I very much enjoyed those sections of the novel that describes places and scenes. The author's words draw a picture that you clearly see, be it the feel of the air on a frosty night or a street in Moscow. Likewise, I found the Communists’ maneuvering and killing during the Spanish Civil War interesting.

What I didn't like were the character portrayals. For me it felt that each character, and there are quite a number, are put into the story
A.J. Howard
If you've read both works, you can't talk about The Case of Comrade Tulayev without Koestler's Darkness at Noon. Both books, written by disaffected former Communists, and published within two years of each other, deal with the process of the revolution eating its children. Both books attempt to come to grips with the motivations of old guards revolutionaries who seemingly openly acquiesced with their own murder. Of course Darkness at Noon is much more widely known and widely read. There are pret ...more
Ben Winch
After the unmitigated rave by Susan Sontag that opens this book I expected to like it more than I did. I won't say 'much more than', because for most part I enjoyed it, but barely a few days after finishing I seemed to have retained little of it, and for a book that purports to examine such weighty subjects this is troubling. The problem wasn't that it was difficult; for the first half at least the pages flew by, helped along by a sense of great things afoot just beyond the surface. If this tran ...more
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If there ever was a book to reinforce my father's grim warnings about "damn pinkos", here it is. Seeing as I've never lived in Stalin-era Soviet Union, I hesitate to mention how realistic this story is, but Jesus...Reads more like a short story collection, with each chapter serving as a mini-conflict for a specific character, all loosely connected around the random killing of the title comrade. If you need immediate gratification, just read chapter 4 ("To Build is to Perish") -- so scary to see ...more
In many ways The Case of Comrade Tulayev eluded and confused me. Oftentimes an onslaught of bureaucratic detail (e.g. who served as the subcommissar of the Textile Trust of the such-and-such Committee of the Political Bureau) obscures or downright buries the existential crises undergone by each protagonist. Its attention to the aforementioned type of minutiae exhausts the reader, but is also equips with a grim, deeply ironic realism. Tulayev asserts individualism against a cosmic void proudly an ...more
Bar Shirtcliff
An intricate, moving, reflective story of a murder and its cascade of indirect victims. Wonderful ending. I will likely read this again. I started out not really knowing how like Nabokov Serge is, in that every part of the story is meaningful and intertwined with every other. He's not as obvious about it as Nabokov is, so, I think I missed some important details. Anyway, I loved this book and I highly recommend it to people who like literature or who are interested in the history of Soviet Russi ...more
Jim Hale
It's hard for most Westerners to understand what it was really like to live in the paranoid and terrifying world of the Soviet Union. Victor Serge was a loyal party man in the beginning, but he was also an artist, and soon experienced the reality of censorship and intimidation that all Soviet writers faced. If you want to know how it worked, this book offers fascinating insight into the tension, fear and moral confusion that Soviet life was all about.
Ok, I confess. I have a macabre penchant for gulag fiction, and this is my favourite of the lot. While Koestler & Solzhenitsyn graphically portray interrogation and exile respectively, Serge takes a panoramic approach showing how a Stalinist purge rippled out from a random incident to ensnare old heroes and young zealots alike. And he ought to know - having spent years in a Russian prison in the 1930s. This is a masterfully constructed tale written in an immensely readable style, but it is t ...more
This took me by surprise. I suppose you have to call the humour dark, but the book has a spirit of optimism, of belief in the principles and ambitions of the October Revolution, which is - in spite of a century of propaganda - still bright and inspiring and thoroughly intelligent. A terrific portrait of the most terrible régime that somehow remembers the passions and beliefs that were betrayed by the Stalinist takeover.
The power of religion and ideology for good and evil is unlimited and there are men who can manipulate that power for non-religious, non-ideological ends.

For anyone interested in the ideological and historical context of this novel I would recommend Isaac Deutscher's trilogy The Prophet Armed, The Prophet Unarmed and The Prophet Exiled and Franco Venturi's Roots of Revolution.
“Oggi ci vorrebbero dei libri folgoranti, traboccanti di algebra storica irrefutabile, pieni di requisitorie implacabili, libri che giudichino i tempi. Ogni riga dovrebbe essere tracciata con intelligenza ferrea, stampata con puro fuoco. Libri che sarebbero nati più tardi. Ryjik cercò di ricordarsi i libri che per lui erano collegati alla sensazione della vita. La carta grigia dei giornali e le loro chiacchiere scialbe non avevano lasciato che un ricordo insipido. Da un passato lontano gli tornò ...more
I will leave it to those with literary tastes and insight to comment on this as a work of fiction. It was a fascinating book, however -- and a work of real merit. I have one complaint, but won't mention it, since it has something of a spoiler effect. On now to the Unforgiving Years...
Eleanor Levine
best book of 2011 so far. densely populated thoughts. good history/fiction revelation/combination.
Amazing novel about the Stalinist terror written by a old bolshevik in exile in Mexico.
Tiago Fontes
The Case of Comrade Tulayev by Victor Serge.
A book written in 40-42 that was only published, after the author’s death, in France in 1949 & translated to English only in 1967. Until his death in 1947 Victor Serge tried to publish it to no avail since very few wanted to antagonize Uncle Joe.
The background is Soviet Russia although if you were told you were in Nazi Germany you would have believed it so many the similarities.
The sensation of Despair is an overwhelming presence throughout the no
Ruth Ann
Victor Serge captures the ambiance of suspicion and tyranny in Soviet society during The Great Terror years of Joseph Stalin. The randomness of suspects for the murder of Comrade Tulayev extends to a lot of individuals. Even higher government officials fall into the Gulag machinery. This reflects the scope of Stalin's purges when all echelons of society fell under suspicion.

Each chapter focuses on the characters caught up in the murder investigation of Comrade Tulayev. The content is grim, bu
Kevin Tole
This is an excellent book and a classic on how paranoia gets out of hand and everything gets drawn into it. Having read it once I immediately set about reading it again as the prose is at times so good that you want to get it fastened in your head. As his parents were a victim of Czarist purges and expulsion, so Serge too became a victim of Stalin's a generation further on. He is thus able to speak from first hand knowledge of how the paranoia and purge developed, and much of what he talks about ...more
Jan 17, 2012 Bea rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Students of Soviet history
Recommended to Bea by: 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die
Listened to the Audible audiobook narrated by Gregory Linington. Just the introduction/biography of the author is fascinating so far.

I had a hell of a time getting through this book. I picked it because it was the highest ranked book from one of the Lists available on Audible. I'm a lover of Russian literature and have read almost all of Solzhenitsyn's novels, which deal with the same themes.

I just loved the introductory biography of the author, Victor Serge, written by Susan Sontag. I thought t
Not easy to read if you are not familiar with the Soviet social and political system, although the book becomes universal when it depicts a totalitarian and dictatorial society. The book is a witch hunt - I will not say more - however don't kid yourself, this is not about communist system only, this could happen and it probably already did happen anywhere. The sad thing is that some smart and valuable people are revealed as terrorists to the masses and the crooks and villains survive and rule. S ...more
☽ Moon Rose ☯
Aug 28, 2013 ☽ Moon Rose ☯ rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommended to ☽ Moon Rose ☯ by: Kindle Store Russian Lit Section, New York Review Books Classics
In literature, the power of persuasion is a significant ingredient that contributes a lot to the compelling nature of a work of fiction. In it lies the convincing power of the writer to create a sense of reality for the readers with each event unfolding with authentic realism especially true for historical novels,as it becomes an eye opener, a sort of wormhole to the past, an entry point that can kindle one′s awareness to a somewhat implausible historical fact, i.e., from the point of view of an ...more
John Convery
I don't understand why this book is not famous, not widely read. Or am I just that out of touch? Highly recommend this one.

OK, so a fictionalized account of the Great Terror under Uncle Joe may not sound like a romping good time, and it's fair to say this isn't a happy book, but it's a compelling read and I think it gets under the skin of life with Stalin better than non-fiction. Mind you, I grew up in Pennsylvania in the 70s, so what do I know? My point is I've read a lot of books about this pl
Heather H
Visiting St Petersburg, seeing Lenin's old office, experiencing the bitter cold, it's easy to forget how bad things were before glasnost bad particularly how much fear people lived under during Stalin's rule. It starts almost comedically but this will leave you in no doubt of the paranoia, violence & horrors that prevailed in late 1930s Russia.
Ray Hartley
Victor Serge's masterpiece, published with a great Susan Sontag introduction in this New York Review of Books edition, follows the search for the killer of a high-ranked official in Stalin's Russia. What emerges is a tragic - and at times comic - story of how the security machinery was aimed not at finding justice so much as serving the real and imagined desires of its terrifying master. This account of the Great Terror remains an epic feat of storytelling as Serge does not allow his characters ...more
Feb 26, 2014 Tom added it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: s, russia
Not finished

If you ever wonder why people are worried about a country becoming a totalitarian police state (the US is well on its way), this is one of the books you should read. Serge, an anarchist who worked with the Bolsheviks, ended up in one of Stalin's prisons during the purge. He was well known enough that pressure from the outside managed to get him freed (and exiled). The story is about the purges, and it should make your blood run cold.
It took me a while to finish the book, due to a lack of knowledge in English. I certainly have missed some details.

Serge is an excellent observer. He describes the fear, abuse of power and how everybody could turn into a victim of the system under Stalin.

After reading this book I read an Amnesty report in which is stated that in nowadays Russia evidence against a prisoner is created by the police. Sad to say, but it sounded familiar to me.
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NYRB Classics: The Case of Comrade Tulayev, by Victor Serge 2 4 Oct 19, 2013 03:55PM  
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Victor Lvovich Kibalchich (В.Л. Кибальчич) was born in exile in 1890 and died in exile in 1947. He is better known as Victor Serge, a Russian revolutionary and Francophone writer. Originally an anarchist, he joined the Bolsheviks five months after arriving in Petrograd in January 1919, and later worked for the newly founded Comintern as a journalist, editor and translator. He was openly critical o ...more
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