Tuesday, 21 September 2010

02. October 15, 2008

Dear Lyudmila Yevgenievna!

Many thanks for your letter and support. I understand where your interest comes from. It must be noted, the experience of prison is not that unusual for our intelligentsia. This is unfortunate, since jail is not a great experience. Therefore Shalamov is closer to my heart than Solzhenitsyn. I think that the difference in their positions is connected with the fact that Solzhenitsyn considered the authoritarian method of running the country, and this included the prison, acceptable. But as a humanist he deemed that a necessary experience for a manager was to try out the whip on his own back. I respect this viewpoint, but I don't agree with it.

Prison is a place of anti-culture, anti-civilisation. Good is evil here, lies are truth. Here rabble nurtures rabble, while decent people feel themselves deeply unfortunate, because they can do nothing inside this loathsome system.

No, this is excessive, of course, they can and they do, but it is so macabre to see how every day only a few isolated individuals save themselves, while dozens of human destinies drown. And how slowly changes are moving ahead, turning around and coming back again.

My own recipe for survival is to learn how to understand and forgive. The better you understand and put yourself in someone else's place, the more difficult it is to condemn and the simpler to forgive.

As a result, sometimes a miracle takes place: a broken person stands up straight and becomes a real person. Prison bureaucrats fear this dreadfully and do not understand at all - how? why? But for me such occurrences are a joy. My lawyers have seen, and not once.

Of course, without confidence in family, without their support, it would be very hard. That's both the disadvantage and the advantage of ending up in jail at a mature age: I’ve got family, friends, there is a support network behind me.

Here the most important condition is self-discipline. Either you work on yourself, or you degrade. The environment tries to swallow you up, to dissolve you. Of course, you can get into a depression from time to time, but it can be beaten.

In general, the harsher the external situation, the better it is for me personally. It is most convenient of all to work in the ShIZO, [8] where you get the feeling of direct, unintermediated opposition to a hostile force. In the usual (by local standards) conditions, it is harder to keep on making the effort.

Excuse me, I am writing, what is called, “notes in the margins”. I’m not thinking. Tomorrow I go back to court.

It will be a pleasure to continue our dialogue.

With deep respect,



[8] ShIZO is a penalty isolator in Russian prisons.

No comments:

Post a Comment