Memoirs of a Revolutionist

Pyotr Kropotkin

Book cover

This book is the memoir of Peter Kropotkin, a man who was born into the Russian aristocracy but became an anarchist. As the introduction to the book makes clear, the title (chosen by an editor to move copies) is quite misleading–there are few moments of action in the book, and none at all of “revolution” in the Che Guevara mold. Indeed, PK’s preferred title for the book was “Around One’s Life,” which pretty much captures the level of action in the book. (The one exception is his narrative of his escape from a Czarist prison, which is just as exciting and crazy as you think it should be.)

Kropotkin is generally revered as a very good person, and this book definitely supports that image. He is thoughtful, loyal, kind, and righteous. But I have to say that I enjoyed reading “The Conquest of Bread,” where he explicitly discusses his anarchist views, more than this book, where those views play a critical but largely implicit role. I wasn’t really convinced by TCOB, but I definitely felt engaged by it in a way that I didn’t with this book. The main thing that I found completely bizarre is that PK mentions his wife only a couple of times in the book, with hardly any description of their relationship or of who she was. I’m sure it has something to do with the mores of the times, when “personal” things like romantic relationships weren’t seen as appropriate for public consumption, but it just seems unthinkable to me that one’s marriage wouldn’t be a key element (for good or for ill) of one’s life story–especially for a progressive and open-minded person such as PK.

PS: Dad, I kept an eye out for the passage you asked about, but couldn’t find it. Either it was from another book, or it was a much more general statement than you are remembering.

My Goodreads rating: 3 stars