by Michael Smith (Veshengro)
City of Darkness, City of Light
by Marge Piercy
Published by Michael Joseph 1997
and by Penguin 1998
City of Darkness, City of Light is a historical novel about the French Revolution of the 18th century and, although a novel, and thus, theoretically, fiction to some extent, the lessons from this book as to revolutions – also and especially grassroots ones – and how the can and will be usurped by people wanting power and control (over other people).
In this thought-provoking novel in which the author, Marge Piercy, brings vibrantly to life three women who play prominent roles in the tumultuous, bloody French Revolution, as well as their more famous male counterparts.
Defiantly independent Claire Lacombe tests her theory: if men can make things happen, perhaps women can too. . . . Manon Philipon finds she has a talent for politics--albeit as the ghostwriter of her husband's speeches. . . . And Pauline Léon knows one thing for certain: the women must apply the pressure or their male colleagues will let them starve. While illuminating the lives of Robespierre, Danton, and Condorcet, the author also opens to us the minds and hearts of women who change their world, live their ideals--and are prepared to die for them.
Popular movements all too often get hijacked by individuals or groups desiring power and control and Robespierre is the prime example for this from the French Revolution as to how to silence everyone who stands in his way and Stalin is a more modern example of this.
This means that those that initiate popular uprisings must remain in control of the movement and be ever vigilant for anyone trying to lead the movement astray or take totalitarian power and control.
This is also and especially a lesson also for today and is today more important, probably, than ever especially with much of the “operations” being possibly conducted via the World Wide Web and social media thereupon.
A book that I can but highly recommend to anyone and I suggest it is read with pen and notepad or pen and lots of sticky notes to hand for annotations.