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Last Times (Paperback)
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A story of displacement and resistance during the early days of the Nazi occupation of France.
Last Times, Victor Serge’s epic novel of the fall of France, is based—like much of his fiction—on firsthand experience. The author was an eyewitness to the last days of Paris in June 1940 and joined the chaotic mass exodus south to the unoccupied zone on foot with nothing but his manuscripts. He found himself trapped in Marseille under the Vichy government, a persecuted, stateless Russian, and participated in the early French Resistance before escaping on the last ship to the Americas in 1941.
Exiled in Mexico City, Serge poured his recent experience into a fast-moving, gripping novel aimed at an American audience. The book begins in a near-deserted Paris abandoned by the government, the suburbs already noisy with gunfire. Serge’s anti-fascist protagonists join the flood of refugees fleeing south on foot, in cars loaded with household goods, on bikes, pushing carts and prams under the strafing Stukas, and finally make their way to wartime Marseille. Last Times offers a vivid eyewitness account of the city’s criminal underground and no less criminal Vichy authorities, of collaborators and of the growing resistance, of crowds of desperate refugees competing for the last visa and the last berth on the last—hoped-for—ship to the New World.
About the Author
Victor Serge (1890–1947) was a revolutionary Marxist and a writer of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. Among his works available in English are the novels The Case of Comrade Tulayev, Unforgiving Years, Conquered City, and Midnight in the Century; an autobiography, Memoirs of a Revolutionary; and a collection of journal entries, Notebooks: 1936–1947 (all available as NYRB Classics).
Ralph Manheim (1907–1992) was the translator of more than one hundred books. After Manheim’s death, the PEN Medal for Translation, which he won in 1988, was renamed in his memory.
Richard Greeman has translated and written the introductions for five of Victor Serge’s novels. He splits his time between Montpellier, France, and New York City.
"Serge is also the laureate of the light in the dark, a writer sensitive to flashes of beauty. . . . [E]verything that glows is precious to Victor Serge, is a source of wonder, a glimmer of possibility beyond the catastrophe of the present." —Ben Lerner, The New York Review of Books
"Serge knows how class and patriotism cut across one another in complex ways. . ."—Sean Sheehan, The Prisma
"To read Last Times is to watch an accelerating catastrophe. Watch is the operative word. Serge’s novel suggests a treatment for a social disaster movie. Written in the midst of World War II, it spans a bit more than a year, from the capture of Paris in June 1940 to the German invasion of the Soviet Union the following June, and often evokes a three-hour film epic with an all-star international cast." —J. Hoberman, New York Times Book Review
"In what is (no mean feat) perhaps his bleakest novel, Serge holds a mirror up to French society, and Western democracies in general." —Marcus Hijkoop, LARB
"[Victor Serge's] work has always been a testament to the spirit of liberty, to the individual’s stubborn endurance against the tyrannical systems that seek to crush them. Serge could have easily been lost to history, but his unwillingness to go quietly has left us with a body of work that makes him impossible to forget, and because of this, he has indeed survived." —Jared Marcel Pollen, LARB