Last month I wrote an annoyed post after reading a chapter or so of The Case of Comrade Tulayev by Victor Serge. Now I’ve finished the book, and those initial irritations have faded from my mind, in part because they seem to have been concentrated in the early pages and in part because I was too gripped by the novel to care any more. It’s not a great novel in Nabokovian terms; the characters are memorable but one-dimensional, and the prose is only serviceable. Furthermore, it will frustrate people who need a central protagonist to bear the weight of the story—Serge didn’t believe in the importance of the individual (including himself), and he keeps jumping from one character to the next in order to give as full a picture as possible. But that picture is overwhelming and unforgettable; Serge was in Stalin’s prisons for years (saved only by a campaign by Western writers), he talked to everyone and remembered everything, and he was determined to tell the world about it. I would tell anyone interested in Stalin’s show trials of the 1930s to read Robert Conquest’s The Great Terror, the classic factual account, and Serge’s novel, which will make you feel what it was like for both the victims of trumped-up cases and the government functionaries who created the cases and then as often as not were arrested themselves. Now I’m very much looking forward to Serge’s World War II novel The Unforgiving Years.