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To Build a Castle: My Life as a Dissenter Hardcover – January 31, 1979
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Top Customer Reviews
The book starts in disorientation, and there is much disorientation found throughout the narrative, but one is quickly drawn into the story. There is a thread of humor, reminding me of Crime & Punishment by Dostoevsky. The pyramid scheme of prisoner complaints to gum up Soviet bureaucracy was genuinely funny. The reality is fairly bleak, but Bukovsky retains his humanity and never gives up fighting.
The book retains relevance as totalitarian impulses still exist today, not only in Russia but throughout the world.
Key passage in the book:
Why should I do it?” asks each man in the crowd. “I can do nothing alone.”
And they are all lost.
“If I don’t do it, who will?” asks the man with his back to the wall.
And everyone is saved.
That is how a man begins building his castle.
Individual action can save the world. Go forth and build your castle.
To Build a Castle is the story of Soviet dissident Vladimir Bukovsky. He was born in Russia during World War II, and he was raised to view Stalin as a benevolent God. But as a teenager, he learned the truth – that Stalin was a monster. The moral injury of this revelation defined Bukovsky's life.
Bukovsky has always said that the dissident movement was not a political movement, but a moral movement. He and his fellow dissidents lived moral lives in defiance of their society. They paid a terrible price for this, but they were successful in creating a moral order that no repression could destroy.
I have read many memoirs of political prisoners. This one is far and away my favorite. It is beautifully written and translated, filled with compelling stories, and surprisingly funny. It is a raw, personal book. It immerses you in the sorrow of the prison world, which only sharpens the joy of Bukovsky's triumphs.
I can't recommend this book highly enough.
Here is a man who, under years of brutal captivity in Soviet prisons, never broke -- never wavered in his courageous defiance. And you will be thrilled by this lone individual's ultimate victory over the communist state. You will be awestruck and moved by this incredible, eloquent memoir, and you will never forget this book -- or the man who lived it.
Vladimir Bukovsky never preaches, rarely accuses, rather expresses his forgiveness, even to those – among KGB officers and prison wards, judges and medics – who happen to have felt it their duty to relentlessly torture him mentally and physically. The one thing the Author condemns with all the might of his ethical convictions and historical insight, is the unspeakable brutality of Soviet socialism. His descriptions of encounters, dialogues and human relationships, are apt to provide a pretty tough lesson to many a know-it-all expert on human psychology, and, let me say, morally sane psychiatry.
Instead of amounting to a blunt provision of hard tobacco, these pages are interspersed with surprisingly humorous recollections. What strikes the reader most of all, is the paradoxical ability of this ‘victim of persecution’ to turn his very persecutors into the final victims of his own unbreakable beliefs.
This is not an elegant review about an actually disappointing book. I dare say it is rather the contrary: an unworthy review about a noble and highly educative piece of literature; in which you will not encounter a single foul word or unreflected statement.