Anarchist Biographical Novels

During the heyday of anarchism and the legal and police persecution which accompanied it, anarchists were in the forefront of major literary and artistic movements. Indeed, many anarchists were artists and writers, critics, and supporters of the arts. Small wonder, then, that some anarchists and fellow-travelers wrote about their experiences in the anarchist and social change movements. Doing so in the fiction format allowed them greater freedom: plausible deniability with respect to police harassment and legal action; the opportunity to enhance their political message; and the freedom to "sex" it up, to make their stories more appealing and well-known to a fiction-reading audience.

  • E. Nesbit & her husband, as Fabian Bland, The Prophet's Mantle (1885; 1898 US edition) (based on the life of Kropotkin in exile in London) (not in print and not readily available) (zip of high-res PDF scan of the novel - 215MB)
  • Emma Brooke, Transition (1895)
  • Ba Jin [sometimes "Pa Chin"], Family (1931); part of "Torrents Trilogy" - v.2 Spring (1938) and v.3 Autumn (1940). Transl. into English 1958. "Workingman Shevyrev" (1927) in Tales of the Revolution, tr. Percy Pinkerton
  • Joseph Conrad, The Secret Agent (1907) [bibliomania]
  • Gertrude Dix, The Image Breakers (1900) (fictionalized) (available at NYU in microform)
  • William Godwin, Things As They Are, or the Adventures of Caleb Williams
  • Frank Harris, The Bomb (1908) [ibiblio]
  • Jaroslav Hasek, The Good Soldier Svejk (1921-22; unfinished)
  • Henry James, The Princess Casamassima (1886) [HTML]
  • Edith Lees (Edith Lees Ellis), Attainment (1909) (fictionalized account of experiences in the Fellowship of the New Life, utopian society established with Edward Carpenter in 1890s; Edith Lees was Havelock Ellis' les/bi wife)
  • John Henry Mackay. The Anarchists: A Picture of Civilisation at the Close of the Nineteenth Century (transl. into English 1891 by George Schumm) [online; reprinted]
  • Ethel Mannin - Martha (1923); See esp. Red Rose and The Lover Under Another Name
  • Emile Patoud & Emile Pouget, How Shall We Bring About the Revolution? (1913)
  • Helen Rossetti and Olivia Rossetti, A Girl Among the Anarchists by Isabel Meredith (1903) (Meredith was a pseudonym for Helen & Olivia; this is a semi-biographical novel about their youthful experiences.) (reprinted) [project gutenberg]
  • Ramon Sender, Seven Red Sundays (1932)
  • Upton Sinclair, Boston (1928)
  • Lois Waisbrooker, A Sex Revolution (1893/1894; reprinted 1985 New Society Publishers)
  • Emile Zola, Germinal (1885) and The Debacle (1892)

Others (assorted):

  • B. Traven
  • Tolstoy
  • Victor Serge
  • Ralph Bates, Lean Men
  • John William Lloyd
  • Emanuel Litvinoff
  • Isaac Babel

Socialist working-class novels, novels of social change, etc.

  • Frances Hodgson Burnett, That Lass o' Lowries'. Burnett was a socialist, not an anarchist.
  • William Morris.

Notice it going the other way too - fictional autobiographies

  • Wallace Stegner (1969) Joe Hill
  • Douglas Day (1991) The Prison Notebooks of Ricardo Flores Magon


  • Paul Goodman - much of his work was biographical in nature
  • Ken Loach, "Land and Freedom" (based on Orwell's Homage to Catalonia memoir)


  • Judy Greenway, "No Place for Women? Anti-Utopianism and the Utopian Politics of the 1890s" (Geografiska Annaler: Series B, Human Geography, v.84, p.201 (Oct. 2002)) (previously In No Man's Land: Women and the Imaginary Geography of Utopia (Dialectics of Utopia and Dystopia, Jan. 2002, RGS-BIG Annual Conference) (abstract))
  • "Serializing Fiction in the Victorian Press", Graham Law, Literary Criticism (2001)
  • Timmi Duchamp, "Science Fiction and Utopias by Women: 1818-1949: A Chronology"