My Companions in the Bleak House

Eva Kanturkova, Author Overlook Press $19.95 (304p) ISBN 978-0-87951-289-7
Kanturkova's stunning tour de force, which has been compared to Solzhenitsyn's A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, chronicles in fictional form the year she spent in the Ruzyne prison outside of Prague, accused of sedition. In the role of narrator, she tells the stories of the various women who passed in and out of her cell. Enduring bad food, bitter cold and lengthy interrogations, she and her inmates become comrades-in-arms. Kanturkova strips away the women's fragile personas and exposes their hopes, dreams, fears and all-too-human foibles. The gypsy Friday is a marvelous storyteller who teaches the narrator that ""the written word is not the whole of literature''; Helen, a timid older woman addicted to tranquilizers, is labeled a psychopath; childlike Paterka is a thief; irrepressibly affectionate and hot-tempered Denise is always involved in brawls. Most of these women are detained for petty crimes, and all of them share one common denominatora passion for thoughts and actions not acceptable to the ruling class. More than an engrossing series of character portrayals, this narrative is a testimony to the triumph of the human spirit over the degradations of prison life. According to the publisher, this work was smuggled out of Czechoslovakia; the translator wishes to remain anonymous. (October 26)
Reviewed on: 09/01/1987
Release date: 09/01/1987
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