In this anthology we aim to provide general insights into the role of the anarchist in fiction, both as protagonist (as angels and demons, but mostly demons) and author. Obviously, there will be writers whom some readers will think I have unjustifiably missed. All I can reply to such complainants is that you can’t please everyone and that there will be other opportunities in future issues. Meanwhile, it is best to allow the articles here to speak for themselves, without comment.
David Weir’s essay ‘Anarchist Fiction, Anarchist Sensibilities’ focuses on the progenitor of anarchist fiction, William Godwin’s Caleb Williams, a highly political novel, published in 1794, that demonstrated, in fictional form, the pressing need for the utopian system he described in the first systematic elaboration of anarchist philosophy, Enquiry Concerning Political Justice. ‘Epic Pooh’ is a newly updated revision of a 1978 article by Michael Moorcock (later published in his 1989 book Wizardry and Wild Romance) reviewing epic fantasy literature for children, particularly J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. While researching early twentieth-century French anarchist plays translated into Italian, Santo Catanuto discovered interesting information on the literary side of the indomitable Communard Louise Michel, indicating that she was the author of Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea. Strapped for cash, she reputedly sold the manuscript to Jules Verne for 100 francs.
Stephen Schwartz, a longtime critic of the detective novel, evaluates the arc of French writer Leo Malet from anarchist to arabophobe and, in ‘Between Libel And Hoax’, counters Miguel Mir’s libellous depiction of the Spanish anarchist movement Entre el roig i el negre. In his discourse on B. Traven’s first full-length novel, The Death Ship, Ernest Larsen looks at the intractable modern problem of identity. Larsen’s short story ‘Bakunin At The Beach’ is about Mr and Mrs Bakunin holidaying at Lake Maggiore under the watchful eyes of Inspector Dupin of the Swiss Department of Justice and Police. Joseph Conrad’s short story ‘An Anarchist. A Desperate Tale’ is republished here from A Set of Six (1908), originally published in Harper’s Magazine in August 1906. ‘Anarchists in Fiction’ is a collection of idiosyncratic reviews of books in which anarchists are portrayed as an eclectic group of villains and criminal degenerates. This volume also includes three hitherto untranslated novelas by French noir author, anarchist André Héléna (1919-1972), and a short story, ‘The Butcher of Les Hurlus’, by another French libertarian, Jean Amila (Jean Meckert) (1910-1995). S.C.