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Louise Michel is a prime example of a prominent figure in anarchist history whose work remains largely unknown in the English-speaking parts of the movement, in part because of lack of translation, but also because a very large number of her writings were never published in the first place. I have done a fair amount of research on Michel’s writings, and a number of translations, but when I first looked at the listings for the Louise Michel Papers at IISH I was surprised to find just how many manuscript writings exist that are barely even cataloged. There are hundreds of files, containing one or more texts, in various stages of completion, of lengths ranging from tiny fragments to works of substantial length. There have been some wonderful projects collecting some of the most interesting of these in print in French, but this is not a case, as with Proudhon, where a day’s work will at least give a researcher a good idea of what they have not seen. Nor is it even a case, as with the extensive Bakunin manuscripts, a case where there is at least a fairly complete listing of titles or first lines. Instead, we find nearly 150 files described simply as “Documents variés,” and a lot more with descriptions that are not a great deal clearer. In order to have a clear sense of Michel’s output, there is really little to do but wade in.

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Travels in the Louiseverse

Louise Michel’s writings are a strange mix of literary brilliance and serious disarray. Many of her published works were issued with serious inconsistencies and basic proofreading problems uncorrected. The conditions under which she composed them—including imprisonment and attempts on her life—naturally created problems. But there is another aspect of Michel’s writings—an apparently intentional element—which introduces …

Into the Archive

The published literature of anarchism is dauntingly large, and spread over a range of languages that few of us are comfortable in. Still, we chip away at the project of preserving, digitizing, translating and analyzing that literature, with a degree of success that is certainly heartening. Of course, the published literature of anarchism is far …