Monday, April 06, 2015

E is for Escape

April A-to-Z: must-read books

The Long Walk (1956)
By Slavomir Rawicz
(1915-2004) Poland

I was a suburban adolescent when I read this tale of Siberian prison camp denizens dreaming of escape. Since then it has become unclear whether this constitutes a true story or not. Doubts have been raised and answers have been given. I don’t personally give a hoot to what degree the chain of events described in The Long Walk align to an actual sequence of experiences or who it was who truly experienced them.

There is undoubtedly fiction in all true stories as there is fiction in real life itself. And in the pages of all fiction there are no doubt truths.  All stories are an assemblage of components of reality.

Regardless, this book is an unforgettable testament to the desperate human struggle for freedom and survival. It is a must-read for anyone who feels like dropped cell-phone calls, rush-hour traffic or unreliable internet represent hardship.

A Passage:

   It was about nine o’clock one bleak November day that the key rattled in the heavy lock of my cell in the Lubyanka Prison and the two broad-shouldered guards marched purposefully in. I had been walking slowly around, left hand in the now characteristic prisoner’s attitude of supporting the top of the issue trousers, which Russian ingenuity supplied without buttons or even string on the quite reasonable assumption that a man preoccupied with keeping up his pants would be severely handicapped in attempting to escape. I had stopped pacing at the sound of the door opening and was standing against the far wall when they came in. One stood near the door, the other took two or three strides in. “Come,” he said. “Get moving.”

   For me this day—twelve months after my arrest in Pinsk on November 19th, 1939—was to be important. I was being marched off to my trial before the Soviet Supreme Court. Here in Moscow, shambling through the echoing narrow corridors of the Lubyanka between my two guards, I was a man almost shorn of identity, ill-fed, abysmally lonely, trying to keep alive some spark of resistance in the dank prison atmosphere of studied official loathing and suspicion of me. Just a year before, when the Russian security men walked into the welcome-home party my mother had arranged for me in the family house at Pinsk, I was Lieutenant Rawicz of the Polish Cavalry, aged twenty-four, slim and smart in my well-tailored uniform and whipcord breeches and shining riding boots. My condition now was a tribute to the unflagging brutalities and the expert subtleties of NKVD (Soviet Secret Police) interrogators at Minsk and Kharkov. No prisoner can forget Kharkov. In pain and filth and degradation they try to turn a man into a whimpering beast.


cammies on the floor said...

I tend to avoid sad books like this, though I always find them powerful

Pat Garcia said...

This does sound like a must read book and I have put it on my book list.
Thank you.
Visiting from the A to Z Blog Challenge 2015.
Patricia at Everything Must Change

Fantasy Writer Guy said...

Hey Pat, If you do read it I hope you leave a comment about it here on my blog. I'd like to know what you thought of it!