Letters from Prison

Overview

Cultural Writing. Translation. Translated from the Czech and Slovak by Gerald Turner. Foreword by Vaclav Havel. The letters printed in this volume were written during Milan Simecka's stay in prison (the author's crime: smuggling his texts out of the country to be published abroad.) Not allowed to mention politics, Simecka—one of the most widely translated dissidents opposing the Communist regime in the former Czechoslovakia—wrote instead about people and human relations. The selection presented here contains ...

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Overview

Cultural Writing. Translation. Translated from the Czech and Slovak by Gerald Turner. Foreword by Vaclav Havel. The letters printed in this volume were written during Milan Simecka's stay in prison (the author's crime: smuggling his texts out of the country to be published abroad.) Not allowed to mention politics, Simecka—one of the most widely translated dissidents opposing the Communist regime in the former Czechoslovakia—wrote instead about people and human relations. The selection presented here contains philosophical reflections as well as practical advice for his wife and sons, bearing witness to both his attitude towards others and to the period in which he lived. Similar to Vaclav Havel's Letters to Olga, Simecka's LETTERS FROM PRISON give us a glimpse into the difficult struggle undertaken by Czechoslovak dissidents in opposition to a Soviet-style regime that was considered the most hard-line in Eastern Europe.

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Editorial Reviews

Central Europe Review
Milan Simecka's philosophical prison letters belong with the best of the genre.
From The Critics
Milan Simecka was a pathfinder of the Czech dissident movement ... Tolerance, [he] teaches, offers its own kind of freedom — a lesson for writers and nations alike.
Rogers
Milan Simecka¹s Letters from Prison is a moving example of the epistolary form at its finest.
The Prague Post
Publishers Weekly
The late imecka (The Restoration of Order) was, after V clav Havel, the most widely translated dissident during Communist rule in the former Czechoslovakia. An enthusiast for the socialist state in his youth, imecka came to be regarded not only as a voice of conscience under totalitarianism, but a philosopher, historian, and a samizdat columnist. Thrown in jail in 1981 for smuggling his writings out of the country, imecka spent 14 months behind bars. Like Havel's Letters to Olga, imecka's missives on nature, love, literature, parenting and imprisonment illuminate the mental landscape Communism imposed through economics, language, mythology and fear. The first half of the book offers descriptions of routine activities taking a bath, sipping tea, riding in cars rendered so poignantly that the author seems to transcend his prison walls. He writes of jail romances born of "conversations shouted through a window, or through a stinking latrine pipe," while other observations seem apt 30 years later: "we go crazy over comforts that alienate us; the only thing that links men and women these days is goggling at the television." The second half of the text, in which imecka muses on the "nature of reality" in dense and philosophical epistles, is harder to digest. (A brief profile, which inexplicably comes in the final pages, could have provided helpful grounding here.) The Western audience for this ruminative volume will likely be narrow, but Eastern European scholars and Cold War historians will appreciate imecka's unique perspective. His words are never angry, despite his circumstances. As Havel says, "He was above things." Photos. (Mar. 15) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
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