Fragments of a Revolution by Seb Doubinsky
Stalking Horse press
Hardcover, May 2021
Sometimes when you read a new release from an author you first thought is where the hell have I been? Why have I not heard of this author before? I was even collected in an anthology of Hamsters stories to benefit Fabolous Raye alongside Doubinsky. Before starting this book I looked him up and His Babylon trilogy looks so up my alley that I kinda felt guilty. So after reading this book we are going to talk for the podcast and fix all that.
My interest at the onset was who published this book. Stalking Horse press is a pretty safe bet, the indie press that is the passion and brainchild of James Reich makes one-of-a-kind books. There is no clear marketing, just stuff James likes and so far, he has a high batting record of fascinating books.
Fragments of a Revolution is a short but thought-provoking slice of fiction composed in short but vivid vignettes of powerful prose. As narrative and structure junky most books that use this style challenge me. It is not that I don’t enjoy experimental prose, in the hands of the right author like your Kathy Ackers of the world it can be a surreal literary journey. What I liked about this tale told in fragments is that it was not surreal.
Doubinsky gets experimental with the format and there is plenty of empty white spaces, no chunk of the story is told over more than three pages. That said the story is vivid, powerful, and realistic. The summer of 1969 in Mexico comes to life. It is easy to forget one year after the summer of love in the states that radical activism was happening everywhere. Mexico the year before exploded with radical activism as the students protested the summer games.
I don’t know the history to be honest. I don’t know how much of this book is based on history or fantasy. Some of the moments of the book feel almost too ideal but I hope moments like this ring true.
“Are you going to execute us, senor?” The woman’s voice was strangely calm now.
Lorenzo exchanged a glance with Joselito, who had just walked inside the small room. “No why?
The woman shrugged majestically. “People like us are always executed in revolutions.”
“Sorry, not this one.”
The actual radicals of the era and the place I have no idea about really. The narrative of this story is told years after the events, Lorenzo clearly didn’t succeed in his struggle and now approached by a German revolutionary he is asked to recall his story. So in a meta sense, the reader is just the wider audience for the tale. That is of course the genius of the Fragmented narrative because our narrator doesn’t remember. He is telling this tale through the haze of memories clouded by his glory days and the idealism of his radical young adulthood.
“…I owe him this piece. He wants to know.”
“Yes but if it brings back bad memories…”
Lorenzo sighed and caressed his wife’s back. “I don’t know if they’re bad memories…I can’t remember what happened, that is the problem…I can see some faces, a few names have come back to me, but that is it…”
Living now in Denmark with a comfortable life Lorenzo is aware that his wife and son don’t know about his past, and he is afraid of them getting more than those fragments. The prose in this short novel is fantastic evocative enough to paint a clearer picture than the novel with 1,000 times the word count. Lorenzo’s fears are real you can’t blame this narrator for being unreliable.
Radical fiction requires a delicate balance, the choir loves preaching and as a member of this choir, I enjoy protest fiction. I like it subtle and soaked in allegory but it is always fun to read something clear and direct about actvism. This is not unapologetic however, one of the strengths of this book is that it is a story of revolution told by a father with years apart from the struggle.
A great read for fans of radical activist fiction. Pre-order this now if that is you.