Milan Simecka, Author, Gerald Turner, Translator, Vaclav Havel, Foreword by LETTERS FROM PRISONMilan imec $12.95 (154p) ISBN 978-80-86264-03-5

The late imecka (The Restoration of Order) was, after Václav Havel, the most widely translated dissident during Communist rule in the former Czechoslovakia. An enthusiast for the socialist state in his youth, imecka came to be regarded not only as a voice of conscience under totalitarianism, but a philosopher, historian, and a samizdat columnist. Thrown in jail in 1981 for smuggling his writings out of the country, imecka spent 14 months behind bars. Like Havel's Letters to Olga, imecka's missives on nature, love, literature, parenting and imprisonment illuminate the mental landscape Communism imposed through economics, language, mythology and fear. The first half of the book offers descriptions of routine activities—taking a bath, sipping tea, riding in cars—rendered so poignantly that the author seems to transcend his prison walls. He writes of jail romances born of "conversations shouted through a window, or through a stinking latrine pipe," while other observations seem apt 30 years later: "we go crazy over comforts that alienate us; the only thing that links men and women these days is goggling at the television." The second half of the text, in which imecka muses on the "nature of reality" in dense and philosophical epistles, is harder to digest. (A brief profile, which inexplicably comes in the final pages, could have provided helpful grounding here.) The Western audience for this ruminative volume will likely be narrow, but Eastern European scholars and Cold War historians will appreciate imecka's unique perspective. His words are never angry, despite his circumstances. As Havel says, "He was above things." Photos. (Mar. 15)

Reviewed on: 01/07/2002
Release date: 04/01/2002
Genre: Nonfiction
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