The World That Never Was

The World That Never Was

A True Story of Dreamers, Schemers, Anarchists and Secret Agents

Book - 2010
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"The World That Never Was" is a thrilling history of the rise of anarchism, told through the stories of several violent revolutionaries and the secret police who pursued them.
Publisher: New York : Pantheon Books, c2010
Edition: 1st U.S. ed
ISBN: 9780375425110
037542511X
Call Number: 335.83 B9825w
Characteristics: xxxiii, 482 p., [8] p. of plates : ill. ; 25 cm

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SCL_Justin Aug 05, 2017

Alex Butterworth’s The World That Never Was is not as phantasmagorical as its title might imply, but if you add in the subtitle – A True Story of Dreamers, Schemers, Anarchists, and Secret Agents – you get a bit closer to the matter. It’s a history of anarchists and revolutionists in 19th century Russia and France primarily. I don’t read a lot of history so I don’t know if it was tremendously accurate. It gave me a bit better an idea of some of the political challenges going on at the time and how the secret police used agents provocateur to try and manoeuvre naive folks to serve other political ends. I liked it because it was about the people who were leftist but not Marxist, which is something I am very capable of forgetting (especially historically).

c
captqrunch
Dec 13, 2016

The narrative is over-long and hard to follow, being syntactically dense, too granular in detail, and chronologically untethered at times. The author promises the moon but delivers a moon pie: the news peg for this book is the discovery of a police dossier believed lost or destroyed a century ago, which upon its release, intriguingly, was heavily redacted. What are the British police trying to hide 100+ years after the fact? Sadly, we'll probably never know. The reader comes away with the impression that a good story was buried somewhere in the vast wealth of detail Mr Butterworth set down --- he would have benefited from a more ruthless editor than the one he apparently had.

dboy1523 Jul 30, 2011

A good review in Bookforum. A fine description of the Paris Commune. After that it seems to lose its way. More interested in the secret police than anarchists. Yet neither group gets in-depth analysis.
It did give me a better understanding of the difference between the anarchist and Marxists. And very revealing of Marx's manipulations during the early Internationals
Overall, it was a letdown

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