‘The Short and Dreary Life of Sergei Necháev, Revolutionary’

The Short and Dreary Life of Sergei Necháev, Revolutionary
Jessica Sequeira

The Harvard Advocate
Commencement 2008

On certain rain-spackled spring evenings, the earth parts to reveal the downtrodden – petals crushed underfoot, shapes huddled in the streets. One perceives in these moments of quiet clarity the unjust structure of things, the need to destroy current sets to shake a fist at their blind and corrupt puppeteers. Then the earth closes again, thoughts are engulfed, steps go on stepping, we forget. We, but not all we. This one did not forget, his mind and eyes and mid-19th century Russia would not let him forget. Bourgeois, proletariat, intellectual – these names did not apply. He was a revolutionary, pure spirit devoid of lazy flesh; he thirsted for violence under blood-red skies, armed revolution in the streets. The means were secondary to the ends. With a like-minded, wildly bearded, and oft-imprisoned anarchist, he wrote a catechism insinuating the visceral pleasure of obliteration, the sensuality of destruction foreshadowing the later beauty of molecules sliced open to unleash apocalypse. (Though he would take issue with its arbitrary boundaries, a parenthetical mention must be added about this mentor, who too was an idealist of revolution, a believer that even Marxism was merely dictatorship renamed. Coming across a band of rioting German peasants in his travels, he organized them into army-style ranks and helped them attack and set fire to a castle. With the countryside in flames behind him, he continued on his way, never once asking their cause. This madness of the blood was only to be expected – poets are more likely than the norm to be mad, and he was nothing if not a poet of destructive passion.) It was a game of pawns; dissidence and political conspiracy; wild prison escapes, secret societies, and powerful connections that never existed. He had a silver tongue, convincing four comrades to help him strangle, shoot, and hide the body of a doubter in a hole in the ice. They took the blame; he escaped. He even stole from his proxy father a compromising box of letters as insurance: the creature had turned on its creator. Capture at last, and hard labor, but correspondence with the rebels continued. Then death, the last institution. While others scraped away at the monolith of time with toothpicks, he tried to scale it and was consumed by his own torch. The onlookers below whispered amongst themselves and wrote books.

 

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