cover image Milena


Margarete Buber-Neumann. Seaver Books, $33.5 (213pp) ISBN 978-0-8050-0748-0

Until now, Milena Jesenska (1896-1944) has been known outside Czechoslovakia only as the recipient of Franz Kafka's Letters to Milena. But as one soon discovers, Milena (which means ""loving one'') was an innovative journalist, author (The Way to Simplicity), underground political leader and intimate friend of creative intellectuals in Vienna and Prague. Buber-Neumann, a former German Communist who had been imprisoned in the Soviet Gulag and turned over to the Nazis in 1941, met her at Ravensbruck concentration camp, where Milena, another disillusioned ex-Communist, was also incarcerated. Milena, the heartbreaking, inspiring story of their intense four-year friendship, introduces us to two indomitable women of nobility and courage, as well as describing SS murders, tortures and mutilations by experimentation. Their deep friendship, an open protest against the humiliation imposed on them, succeeded in mitigating ``the unbearable reality.'' (May)