This is the brand new reprint of the Red and Black title of fame and infamy, and includes a new foreward by Aragorn!, one of the book's many aficionados.
Two individuals living on distant continents resume contact through correspondence. They describe meaningful relationships in their lives during the twenty years since their youthful liaison, comparing the choices each took. Yarostan lives in an unnamed workers' republic; Sophia in an anonymous Western democracy. They both make efforts to lead meaningful lives. Along the way, they encounter bureaucrats, idealists, racists, flouters of social convention, laborers, militants, professors, jailers, hucksters, and more.
In important respects, Sophia's biography parallels that of Fredy Perlman.
It seems evident to me that both correspondents are correct (in their analysis and attacks on the other epistler) but are making different points. Sophia's argument is that the power of autonomy and independent creative action (aka the class struggle) is the important part of their story, perhaps of life itself. If the choice is between the politician and their backers or the protester and their friends, Sophia's choice is clear. In her analysis Yarostan is making group identification entirely negative. If one member of the working class is willing to act the role of the politician then are the working class dupes of the politician?
Yarostan argument is that the specifics, or the intentions of the actors, aren't particularly important to the reality of the 20 years he spent in prison, or the not-positive impact they (as individuals) had on the situation that they were in control of, not to speak of the world outside of their factory or their relationships.
This distinction, between the fatalist and the optimist point of view, is the political heart of the story and echoes throughout the rest of the book.
--from the foreward
For all kinds of perspectives on this amazing novel, check out the website for the Insurgent Summer of 2010.