Like a Prisoner - Stories of Endurance
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Translated from the Albanian by John Hodgson
The book contains eleven dramatic and often horrifying stories, each describing the life of a different prisoner in the camps and prisons of communist Albania. The prisoners adapt, endure, and generally survive, all in different ways. They may conform, rebel, construct alternative realities of the imagination, cultivate hope, cling to memories of lost love, or devise increasingly strange and surreal strategies of resistance. The characters in different stories are linked to one another, and in their human relationships create a total picture of a secret and terrifying world. In the prisoners’ back stories, the anecdotes they tell, and their political discussions, the book also reaches out beyond the walls and barbed wire to give the reader a panoramic picture of life in totalitarian Albania.
Fatos Lubonja is Albania’s most distinguished opposition intellectual. He served 17 years in prison during communism, and since his release has been a fierce critic of the erosion of democracy.
Read one of the stories from this important collection in Words Without Borders.
"...this extraordinary prison memoir"
"There’s a fascinating cast here: the Don, who every year raised people’s hopes by insisting there was an amnesty coming; a political prisoner, once so committed to the cause that he and his companions had beaten a Romanian peasant to death for criticising the Soviet Union; a Catholic priest and a Protestant Manichean, each with his own take on the meaning of suffering."
Melanie McDonagh, The Spectator
Lubonja said that so many years after he was released in 1991, he wrote the stories about the prison as a sign that he has accepted the past which he previously rejected, and as “a part of giving meaning to the suffering I went through...He said that he wants “to tell others, to draw lessons for others, but at the same time as catharsis for myself, as it’s necessary to understand for oneself what one has lived through”.
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