What drives and sustains people to believe that they can and must change the world, no matter how great the sacrifice? And how does such struggle change them? The Bookbinder questions such revolutionary ambitions at two historical moments.
In Paris in 1870-71, a naïve 17-year old apprentice bookbinder, full of hormonal excitement and revolutionary illusions, gets deeply involved in political agitation through the Prussian siege, the uprising after the French defeat, and then the construction of workers’ power in the Paris Commune, the greatest defiance of global capitalism ever, previously unimaginable in Europe’s most prestigious city and capital of finance, until the Commune’s bloody extermination by military force in May 1871 — and thus discovers how complex and treacherous can be the path to revolution.
And in a tranquil European village today, the author of this novel tries through his protagonist to sustain his own revolutionary optimism in the face of wars, refugee crises, terrorism and populism, while simultaneously confronting the skepticism of his new lover, a Cuban who has seen too much of revolutionary illusions and failed promises. Their debate over past and present will deeply affect both of them as the author seeks to “bind” all these strands into a coherent story.