Manuscripts Don’t Burn

The phrase “manuscripts don’t burn” in Russia is a rallying cry for oppressed writers and books that are considered dangerous by the authorities. Soviet government efforts to confiscate and eradicate unauthorised literature was thwarted by authors using various methods between the 1920s and 1970s: secretly circulating samizdat copies, the memorising of texts, the hiding of manuscripts, making and secreting carbon copies, the smuggling of microfilm versions out to publishers in the West. Several classics of world literature have survived to tell their tale, among them Solzenitsyn’s One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich and The Gulag Archipelago, Grossman’s Life and Fate and Pasternak’s Dr Zhivago.

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Prison books

A court in Portland Oregon, on Monday 27th January 2014, sentenced Rebecca Rubin for the offence of arson in the following way:

1. 5 years imprisonment.
2. $14 million restitution on her release.
3. She was required to read, whilst in prison, Malcolm Gladwell’s book David and Goliath.

The prosecutor had asked the court to sentence her to 7 ½ years imprisonment and pay $40 million restitution (it is not recorded what book, if any, they required her to read). It seems rather savage to impose literary obligations on prisoners. Continue reading