ANARCHIST PORTRAITS by Paul Avrich

ANARCHIST PORTRAITS

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Everyman's book of anarchists--a collection of thumbnail biographies, with enough discussion of writings and philosophies to make clear the wide spectrum and unabashed idealism of the anarchist movement. Avrich (Queens College/History; The Haymarket Tragedy; The Russian Anarchists; Kronstadt 1921) is clearly moved by his subject; reading his sketches of these ""saints without god,"" many others will find it hard not to be moved as well. With the stories of the major Russian anarchists (Bakunin, Kropotkin, and others), key figures in the history of American radicalism (such as Mollie Steiner, Alexander Berkman, and Sacco and Vanzetti) on through lesser-known Mexican, French, and Australian anarchists, Avrich creates, piece by piece, a real feeling for a time when the West was full of revolutionary ferment, and a decentralized, communal, anarchist society was something that might really happen. Though scholarly and dense with information, his prose is always accessible, and the book is filled with well-chosen, telling, even charming anecdotes. (While he goes a long way toward correcting the misbegotten, but still popular, image of the anarchist as a bomb-throwing madman, and he doesn't leave out the warts--Bakunin's anti-Semitism; Nachaev, the cold-hearted murderer--there's something quaint about these portraits, and he risks making them seem no longer relevant, like sepia-tinted photographs.) A fine introduction to anarchy for anyone with a little historical background; for the confirmed radical, a good source of information and inspiration.

Pub Date: Oct. 15th, 1988
ISBN: 0691006091
Publisher: Princeton Univ. Press