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October: The Story of the Russian Revolution

Award-winning author China Miéville plunges us into the year the world was turned upside down

China Miéville book tour: see all launch events here 

On the centenary of the Russian Revolution, China Miéville tells the extraordinary story of this pivotal moment in history.

In February of 1917 Russia was a backwards, autocratic monarchy, mired in an unpopular war; by October, after not one but two revolutions, it had become the world’s first workers’ state, straining to be at the vanguard of global revolution. How did this unimaginable transformation take place?

In a panoramic sweep, stretching from St Petersburg and Moscow to the remotest villages of a sprawling empire, Miéville uncovers the catastrophes, intrigues and inspirations of 1917, in all their passion, drama and strangeness. Intervening in long-standing historical debates, but told with the reader new to the topic especially in mind, here is a breathtaking story of humanity at its greatest and most desperate; of a turning point for civilisation that still resonates loudly today.

Reviews

  • “Miéville is an ideal guide through this complex historical moment, giving agency to obscure and better-known participants alike, and depicting the revolution as both a tragically lost opportunity and an ongoing source of inspiration.”
  • “When one of the most marvellously original writers in the world takes on one of the most explosive events in history, the result can only be incendiary”
  • “To give a new generation of readers a fresh account of the great revolution, incorporating all the post-1989 archival discoveries and scholarly research, is a singularly daunting task. To render it in vivid, oracular prose, moving across the pages with the gathering force of a hurricane, is something that only China Miéville could achieve.”
  • “This gripping account is a re-enactment of the Russian Revolution... His writing can be as passionate as that of the poets of the time: Alexander Blok, Mikhail Kuzmin, Marina Tsvetaeva, to mention some of those quoted here. Miéville's own special effects are of a piece with them.”
  • “Elegantly constructed and unexpectedly moving”
  • “Miéville presents the action with his novelist’s eye … An intriguing march to revolution, told here with clarity and insight.”
  • “There are delightful grace notes here over and above a brisk and perceptive narrative.”
  • “Cinematic and vivid”
  • “Readers will be satisfied that October gives them the literary equivalent of bearing witness to world history.”
  • “It’s as if John Reed, author of the classic piece of revolutionary journalism, Ten Days That Shook the World, woke from a decades-long sleep to tell the story of 1917 once again.”
  • Best Summer Books of 2017
  • “Miéville sifts through the extraordinary disagreements, debates, and debacles that accompanied the Russian reds on every step of the road to revolution … He's especially evocative when he chronicles the scenes on the chaotic streets. But much of the value of October comes in his mastery of how the intricacies of human decision-making play out in Petrograd, Moscow, and beyond.”
  • “An exciting account of the revolutionary moment... well-argued and elegiac”

Blog

  • The Russian Revolution: A Verso Reading List

    "The year 1917 was an epic, a concatenation of adventures, hopes, betrayals, unlikely coincidences, war and intrigue; of bravery and cowardice and foolishness, farce, derring-do, tragedy; of epochal ambitions and change, of glaring lights, steel, shadows; of tracks and trains...

    This was Russia’s revolution, certainly, but it belonged and belongs to others, too. It could be ours. If its sentences are still unfinished, it is up to us to finish them." — China Miéville

    One hundred years on from the Russian Revolution we look back at the events that turned the world upside down and how they resonate today with new books from China Miéville and Tariq Ali, and classic texts from the Verso archive, made newly available for the centenary.

    All the books on this reading list are 50% off until May 28 at midnight UTC. Click here to activate your discount.


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  • Lenin's Three Theoretical Arguments About the Dictatorship of the Proletariat

    It is the contradictions of the dictatorship of the proletariat, as it was beginning to develop in Russia, that form the object of Lenin's analysis and of his arguments. If you forget this fact, you can easily fall into dogmatism and formalism: Leninism can be represented as a finished theory, a closed system — which it has been, for too long, by Communist parties. But if on the other hand you remain content with a superficial view of these contradictions and of their historical causes, if you remain content with the simplistic and false idea according to which you have to "choose" between the standpoint of theory and that of history, real life and practice, if you interpret Lenin's arguments simply as a reflection of ever changing circumstances, less applicable the further away they are in history, then the real causes of these historical contradictions become unintelligible, and our own relation to them becomes invisible. You fall into the domain of subjective fantasy

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  • The Time to Come

    "How to write history knowing what has happened and yet to write as if in each moment anything else might have happened? How to write with open possibility when one knows the ending?"

    Esther Leslie spoke at the Tate Modern with China Miéville and Owen Hatherley to launch Miéville's October: The Story of the Russian Revolution on 12 May 2017. This is the text of her reflections on revolutionary time, photography and narrative history. 

    October is 50% off until May 28 as part of our Russian Revolution reading. See all the books on the reading list, here.

    It is one hundred years since the Russian revolution, or revolutions, in February and October, 1917. An anniversary: the result of the imposition of time on the flux of human activity. China Miéville has written a history of those two revolutions, distributing those busy human moves, those chaotic activities, with another measure of time: the month. October stretches out John Reed’s temporality in Ten Days that Shook the World, extending the days considered to three hundred or more, and so widens the aperture, increases the resolution. Reed wrote about the ten momentous days in around ten days or nights, frenzied, shut away from everyone – and with piles of placards, papers and a Russian dictionary – but he began with the title that referred to time and he wrote it twenty four hours a day. 

    When we talk of revolution, we talk of time, in various ways. Revolutions, it is said, need to seize the moment, but which moment, what day, when? Revolutions hasten things, speed up things, or they stop them, freeze them in time. Revolutionary time is the time of stopped clocks and new calendars. The revolutionary activist Grace Lee Boggs began every meeting with the question: ‘What time is it on the clock of the world?’ 

    - Clock showing the time the Bolsheviks seized power on October 26 1917, Winter Palace, St Petersburg

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