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University of California Press
The Silent Escape / Edition 1

The Silent Escape / Edition 1

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780520082090
Publisher: University of California Press
Publication date: 04/01/1995
Series: Society and Culture in East-Central Europe Series
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 276
Product dimensions: 0.75(w) x 6.00(h) x 9.00(d)

About the Author

Lena Constante, an artist and writer living in Bucharest, won the Association des Ecrivains de Langue Française's 1992 Prix Européen for this book's French edition. Franklin Philip is a freelance translator living in Boston. Gail Kligman is Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of California, Los Angeles.

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The Silent Escape: Three Thousand Days in Romanian Prisons 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
meggyweg on LibraryThing 10 months ago
In 1945, an artist named Lena Constante collaborated with a major Romanian Communist figure's wife to create a puppet theater in Bucharest. As a result, in January 1950 Lena was arrested, convicted of trumped-up charges of espionage, and imprisoned for the next twelve years under miserable circumstances. Her first eight years, spent in solitary confinement, are the subject of this memoir. Lena writes modestly -- she claims to have no talent for writing, which is obviously untrue -- and without self-pity. The format of the book, with each section headed "Day __ of My Detention," forces the reader to count the days with her.I cannot help admire Lena and the other prisoners in the story for their ingenuity and fortitude. Although, aside from a few isolated incidents, there wasn't any physical torture, the mental torture and isolation were crushing. Lena had to fend off sexual abuse from the male guards, she was never adequately fed and often outright starved, she had to wear the same clothes until they quite literally disintegrated, and she contracted tuberculosis. Yet somehow, she was able to keep from giving in to the despair or going insane. She was able to maintain a rich inner life by writing stories and poetry in her head, and by drawing when she got the opportunity. Any little scrap she got her hands on could be made into something useful -- she made a comb out of soap and broom straws, for example, and a little backgammon game out of pieces of bread. And, though she almost never saw anybody besides her guards and her interrogators, when there were prisoners in adjoining cells she was able to communicate with them and sometimes have actual conversations with them by rapping on the wall and stomping on the floor -- always under the threat of seven days in "the hole" on bread and water if they were caught. Once, some women in another cell were even able to sneak her a pair of socks they had knitted for her themselves.In spite of the terrible injustice done to her, Lena doesn't seem to have carried any bitterness from her experience, and even tries to give her interrogators and the prison staff the benefit of doubt, pointing out that most of them weren't really vicious and were just trying to do their jobs, and they would be subject to severe punishment if they were caught being nice to a prisoner.In the afterword, Lena explains briefly the larger circumstances going on in Romania at that time that lead to her show trial and imprisonment. To her, locked up in solitary, these were hardly relevant, but the reader is able to get some context from what she said and could look up more information about her trial if necessary.If you're interested in political prisoners and Stalinist ones in particular, I would HIGHLY recommend this book.